Giving people “Something to Chew On”

K-State’s Global Food Systems podcast ponders ways to solve global issues working across disciplines

When looking at the complex field of the Global Food Systems Initiative at Kansas State University, deciding where to begin to promote awareness can be overwhelming, but for Maureen Olewnik, Jay Weeks, Scott Tanona and Jon Faubion, the solution was simple 一 starting a conversation. 

With that in mind, the program’s podcast, “Something to Chew On,” began.

The podcast aims to explore global food systems, discuss what has been done to address the issues and explore the best ways for humans to approach these challenges in the future. 

“What I’m doing is starting at a grassroots level to connect researchers on campus who are working in areas that touch on the food system,” said Olewnik, coordinator of the GFS podcast. “When you’re approaching a problem, it may look like a scientific question on the surface, but sometimes science can only take you so far. What I’m doing is trying to connect all those dots on campus, and get people to start understanding where they fit in.

The first podcast episode launched in January 2019, and as of September 2019, more than 13 episodes have been released. 

Jay Weeks, co-host of the GFS podcast and May 2019 Ph.D. graduate in soil chemistry, said the podcast goes beyond spreading information about the GFS initiative.

“As K-State gets more exposure, the university is able to establish itself as a sort of thought-leader in the realm of global food systems, and that will only attract more people to K-State,” Weeks said. “It’s a good recruitment tool, but it also helps fuel the discussion. It’s more than just putting corn seeds in the ground and harvesting them.”

Scott Tanona, associate professor of philosophy and co-host of the GFS podcast, said while he helps host the podcast, he learns something new because they cover different aspects of food and agriculture. 

“It’s surprisingly enjoyable just talking with interesting people about interesting things,” Tanona said. 

The topics of discussion range from global food security to the relationship between art and the food and drink people consume. As of September, the podcast has had more than 1,600 unique downloads, with listeners from 30 different countries.

While the “Something to Chew On” podcast is a large part of the awareness efforts, the GFS initiative goes beyond the recorded conversations.

“The effect of the podcast can’t be measured or described in isolation. It is one part of a multifaceted program to increase awareness of the important work the individuals and interdisciplinary teams are doing on the broad subject,” said Jon Faubion, former professor in the Department of Grain Science and co-host of the GFS podcast. 

All GFS-related research, development and innovation is supported and funded through the state of Kansas. The podcast has been a cost-effective way to spread awareness and promote the efforts being made to address the complex issues. 

Olewnik said she hopes the podcast will grow and be a way to put K-State on the map with organizations outside of K-State. 

“One of the things I would like to see is when organizations outside of K-State identify a specific problem in an area we have in our core of expertise, that they immediately think of K-State as being able to put those teams together to tackle the problem,” Olewnik said. “I’m hoping the podcast does some of that and shows the diversity of work that’s done at K-State.”

For more information on how you can support the GFS initiative, contact Maureen Olewnik at and listen to the “Something to Chew On” podcast at

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