Nebraska researcher receives inaugural Heroes Award

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Foundation for Innovation in Healthy Food

Katherine Frels, a scientist and assistant professor in the Department of Agronomy and Horticulture and a collaborator with the Nebraska Food for Health Center, received the inaugural Heroes Award from the Foundation for Innovation in Healthy Food. She received the award on October 29 at the ASA-CSSA-SSSA International Annual Meeting in St. Louis, Missouri.

Frels received the honor in recognition of her outstanding leadership in launching the foundation’s Coalition for Grain Fiber initiative.

The coalition seeks to improve the nutrition in staple foods without impacting their taste, feel or consumer price. It is simultaneously dedicated to establishing profit incentives for farmers and other food suppliers that deliver increased nutrient foods.

According to the coalition, improvements in the nutritional content of white and whole wheat flour may ultimately save thousands of lives and billions of healthcare dollars (U.S.) globally.

“My goal is that every citizen has a chance to eat a healthier diet without having to make major changes,” says Frels. “We’ll not only increase dietary fiber consumption, we’ll also start the conversation around how plant breeders, food scientists and food companies can work together to focus on nutritional improvement.”

Over 50 public and private-sector laboratory leaders in three countries and 23 U.S. states have engaged with the coalition, including University of Nebraska-Lincoln, CIMMYT, Rothamsted Research, Cornell University and Bayer Crop Science, and the University of Nebraska Medial Center.

The Nebraska Wheat Board provided support for the efforts of the foundation and the coalition.

“It’s really an honor to be considered,” says Frels. “Plant breeders around the world are working hard to make sure that all people have access to enough healthy food. I hope my efforts thus far are just the beginning and we can continue working together to create a global push for consuming more dietary fiber.”

“Through her research, Dr. Frels has demonstrated a commitment not just to improving the health benefits of wheat-based foods, but also to creating value-added products that will benefit Nebraska wheat growers,” said Derek McLean, dean and director of the Agricultural Research Division at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. “Her work continues a long tradition of wheat research at UNL. This recognition is an incredible honor both for Dr. Frels and for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.”

About the Nebraska Food for Health Center
The center brings together faculty researchers from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the University of Nebraska Medical Center and the University of Nebraska at Omaha to tie gastrointestinal and biomedical research to agriculture, plant and animal breeding and genetics.

About the Foundation for Innovation in Healthy Food
FIHF builds coalitions of stakeholders that support increasing the nutritional value of the foods we consume, while preserving consumers’ food experiences.

About the Coalition for Grain Fiber
The coalition is enrolling grain fiber in the fight against chronic disease. By improving the nutritional content of white and whole wheat flour, it seeks to save thousands of lives and dramatically reduce healthcare costs.

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Katherine Frels
Katherine Frels