The Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems develops innovative ideas and solutions to the many challenges of current food systems.

Taking a holistic and transdisciplinary approach, the Center seeks to facilitate research, education, public engagement, community-strengthening and policy reform to support sustainable food systems. The Swette Center is the focal point for food systems work at ASU.

Swette Center (pronounced “sweet-ee”) faculty recognize that one-dimensional metrics, like yield per hectare, are important but blind us to many opportunities if not considered within a broader food systems approach. Increasingly, food system analysis is recognized for its power to provide greater understanding of complex interactions and real world dynamics than other kinds of lenses, frameworks or models. Food system analysis can help policymakers and others understand potential trade-offs of proposed interventions, technologies and policies by taking into account the many aspects of food and agriculture typically studied — agricultural land, inputs, fisheries, infrastructure, labor and the like — and placing these component parts within an integrated social and environmental context.

At the Swette Center, faculty are reinventing research processes, and by doing so, the Center is producing policy-relevant knowledge to make the consequences of our food choices explicit in quantitative and qualitative terms.

Our mission

Together we drive social progress, economic productivity and ecosystem resilience through food systems transformation.

Our vision

A world where all communities enjoy nutritious food produced from thriving, equitable and environmentally sustainable food systems.

Our ethos

Accessible expertise

We are perpetual students cultivating an inviting environment of curiosity, critical thinking and networking.

Facilitating and accelerating innovation through cross-pollination

ASU sustainability scientists and scholars connect and collaborate with global food producers, distributors and consumers to solve pressing food systems challenges through holistic systems thinking and design.

Commitment to our community

We’re more than scholars and policymakers — we’re friends, change agents and embedded partners working with all who shape food systems.

Cultivating the future

Empowering the next generations through leading edge research, education and policy.

Executive Director Kathleen Merrigan

At the ASU Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems, Executive Director Kathleen Merrigan brings her invaluable expertise in policy and academia to work with local producers, state and national leaders, and university faculty and students to achieve the sustainable food future that we are all eager to embrace.


In 2023, the Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems earned the prestigious ASU President’s Award for Transdisciplinary Collaboration in recognition of their ongoing efforts to advance organic agriculture and policy. This accolade reflects the Center’s commitment to fostering collaboration across disciplines for a more sustainable future.

Furthermore, the renowned nonprofit Food Tank has consistently recognized the Swette Center’s dedication to food systems transformation. In 2024, for the fourth consecutive year, the Center was honored to be named among the top organizations around the world building equitable and resilient food systems.

Kelly and Brian Swette

The Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems was established thanks to a generous gift from Kelly and Brian Swette.

Kelly Swette is the former CEO of Sweet Earth Natural Foods, a company that sells plant-based, natural and organic foods based in Moss Landing, California. Prior to founding Sweet Earth, Kelly was global vice president of Marketing at Calvin Klein and held several significant leadership roles during her 10+ years at PepsiCo. She has contributed her expertise as a board member for Thistle and the Philip Glass Center for the Arts, Science, and the Environment. Kelly describes herself as engineer by training, marketer by trade and foodie by love.

Brian Swette is an ASU alumnus, ASU trustee and board director for the ASU Global Institute of Sustainability and Innovation. He is President of Sweet Earth Natural Foods. Former positions include chief operating officer of eBay, executive vice president and chief marketing officer for PepsiCo and Procter & Gamble brand manager. Board experience includes service for Burger King, Jamba Juice, FRS Company and Endeavor.

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