Food Systems For Nutrition Innovation Lab

Food Systems for Nutrition Innovation Lab Call for Expressions of Interest (EOI): Demonstrating the Cost-Effectiveness of Innovation Bundles to Support Food Systems Transformation for Nutrition, Food Safety, and Reduced Food Loss and Waste

The deadline to apply is March 5th, 2024

The Food Systems for Nutrition Innovation Lab (FSN-IL) is a five-year activity managed by Tufts University and supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Bureau for Resilience and Food Security (RFS). FSN-IL is seeking expressions of interest (EOI) from eligible institutions to collaborate on applied research that demonstrates that bundles of innovations can support food systems transformation for nutrition in target geographies at scale. The bundle of innovations (to be implemented and/or tested will reduce loss and waste of nutrient-dense perishable foods while ensuring food safety in Malawi, Mozambique, Nepal, or Bangladesh. The final study design will be developed through a process of co-creation with FSN-IL and its consortium partners and will require concurrence of the USAID mission in the target country.

FSN-IL focuses on all parts of the value chain, with particular emphasis on downstream (post-farm gate) innovations that include processing, storage, packaging, cooling, transformation, retail, and consumer domains. This also includes critical cross-cutting innovations that improve nutritional status of vulnerable populations, with a specific emphasis on gender and youth as well as enhancing resilience.

The objective of this EOI is to identify partners with experience and expertise in implementing, testing and/or assessing innovations in Bangladesh, Nepal, Malawi, or Mozambique. Each country is of course unique in its food systems and challenges. That said, FSN-IL research through this EOI will focus on potentially generalizable innovations in perishable food value chains from the post-farm gate, ideally on a combination of innovations from processing to storage, packaging, cooling, transformation, market infrastructure improvements, market access improvements, food retail and environment modifications, as well as demand generation and social behavior change communication to influence consumer perceptions and, subsequently, consumer choice.

All applications must include at least one U.S. based academic institution and should identify at least one partner from the selected focus country. There is no restriction on who can apply as the lead (prime) if criteria for being the lead of a USAID project are met and documented. Applicants and their partners must have a Universal Entity Identification (UEI) from the System for Award Management (SAM) and an active SAM registration at the time of award.

The application process will consist of three stages: submissions of expressions of interest, co-creation process, and assessment, development, and submission of a full proposal.

Only selected EOIs will be invited for co-creation with FSN-IL. EOIs must be submitted through Piestar RFx and must be received in the system by 5:00 pm EST on Tuesday, March 5th, 2024. More information can be found by downloading the EOI form below. Additionally, you will be asked to download the following EOI template below and upload it to Piestar as part of your application.

Eligibility and Allowable Costs

All applications must include at least one U.S. based academic institution and should identify at least one partner from the selected focus country. There is no restriction on who can apply as the lead (prime) if criteria for being the lead of a USAID project are met and documented.

Applicants and their partners must have a Universal Entity Identification (UEI) from the System for Award Management (SAM) and an active SAM registration at the time of award. Awards will only be made to institutions with active SAM registrations and UEIs, so if an institution does not have a SAM UEI, it is recommended that the process for obtaining the UEI and registration be started as soon as possible. Invited applicants should note their UEIs and registration expiration date in their application documents. If they do not have a UEI and/or do not have an active registration at the time of application, please state so and provide new UEIs and registration expiration dates when they are received.

If awarded, the lead institution will serve as the primary sub-awardee, issuing lower-tier subawards to other institutions as necessary. Lower-tier subawardees are subject to all of the same eligibility requirements as the lead (applicant) institution. Applicants are required to demonstrate their own past performance as well as the history of collaboration with the proposed partner(s).

The applicant is responsible for ensuring that no individual or organization proposed as part of the activity is excluded from U.S. Government assistance and acquisition awards. If selected, the applicant will be required to provide a letter of assurance confirming eligibility. The U.S. Government’s excluded parties list is now maintained in SAM.

The FSN-IL strongly encourages applications from qualified Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs) in the United States including, but not limited to, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Predominantly Black Institutions, Hispanic-Serving Institutions, Tribal Colleges, and Universities, and Asian American, Native Alaskan and Pacific Islander Serving Institutions.

FSN-IL supports private sector engagement as a critical component in the food system to promote scale-up and sustainability. Applicants are strongly encouraged to identify private sector partner(s) as appropriate. For guidance, applicants are encouraged to read and apply USAID’s Private Sector Engagement Policy. However this RFA cannot support any costs associated with construction and/or building. None of the funds can be used for infrastructure development including development of agricultural facilities such as irrigation systems, markets, warehouses, other types of buildings, roads, bridges, and collection sites.

Awards under this EOI will be subject to the cost principles detailed in the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards (commonly called “Uniform Guidance”), codified as 2 CFR Part 200. Applicants and any proposed sub-awardees will additionally be subject to the appropriate USAID Standard Provisions ADS Chapter 303, Standard Provisions for U.S. Nongovernmental Organizations;[1] ADS Chapter 303, A Mandatory Reference for ADS Chapter 303, Standard Provisions for Non-U.S. Nongovernmental Organizations;[2] and ADS Chapter 308, Standard Provisions for Cost-Type Agreements with Public International Organizations (PIOs).[3]

 

[1] https://www.usaid.gov/ads/policy/300/303maa

[2] https://www.usaid.gov/ads/policy/300/303mab

[3] https://www.usaid.gov/ads/policy/300/308mab

Focus Areas

The objective of this EOI is to identify partners with experience and expertise in implementing, testing and/or assessing innovations in Bangladesh, Nepal, Malawi, or Mozambique. Each country is of course unique in its food systems and challenges. That said, FSN-IL research through this EOI will focus on potentially generalizable innovations in perishable food value chains from the post-farm gate, ideally on a combination of innovations from processing to storage, packaging, cooling, transformation, market infrastructure improvements, market access improvements, food retail and environment modifications, as well as demand generation and social behavior change communication to influence consumer perceptions and, subsequently, consumer choice. Perishable nutrient-dense foods include fish and other aquaculture products, dairy, poultry, eggs, meat, dark green leafy vegetables, Vitamin A rich fruits and vegetables, and other fruits and vegetables.

FSN-IL aligns with locally and country led priorities and utilizes the food systems transformation pathways outlined by each country as a guide in developing its in-country portfolio.

Food Systems Transformation Pathways by Country

In 2021, many countries defined their own national pathways aimed at transforming local food systems, and in all cases, there was attention to the need for innovations along food value chains, improved partnerships between public and private sector stakeholders, and enhanced attention to demonstrating successes. Some of the key elements of national pathways defined by FSN-IL’s target countries are as follows:

  • Bangladesh: Use forward and backward linkages across the food systems value chain to improve access to local produce to wider markets through private investments in inputs, processing, storage, packaging, transportation and marketing of agri-food products and digital services, with special attention in hard-to-reach areas. Address substantial food and nutrient quality are lost along the agri-food system value chain arising from harvest and postharvest losses due to inadequate infrastructure and technologies.
  • Malawi: Low productivity, poor farming practices, inadequate diet diversification, consumption of unsafe foods, inadequate capacity in agro-processing, poor food waste management (industrial and domestic), lack of and poor infrastructure, transport systems and logistics hubs for market linkages to facilitate processing, storage, local trade, and consumption of nutrient-rich foods, especially perishable are key challenges and priorities identified by the country.[1]
  • Mozambique: The food systems value chain identifies key priority actions to its pathway towards food systems transformation that include, but are not limited to enhanced access to farm inputs, adequate financing to agriculture, livestock and fishery sectors, enhanced marketing linkages through infrastructure development and transportation, establishment and expansion of processing and storage units, implementation of and compliance with quality standards and practices, enhanced technical capacity of small and medium enterprises, and research to improve the business environment in the agrarian sector.
  • Nepal: Focus on addressing low competitiveness of the food trade system, inadequate infrastructure and transportation, insufficient financing and extension services, gender inequity to support Nepal’s transition to a sustainable food system.[2] This would be through encouraging youth in the agriculture sector, improving access to farming inputs, limiting post-harvest losses, optimizing processing, storage, and marketing practices and strategies (policies, standards) to reduce food loss and waste and chemical residues in foods, developing entrepreneurship skills of SMEs to raise livelihoods, ensuring longer-term investments in resilient food systems to withstand shocks and stresses, and implementing food governance throughout the value chain to ensure safe and nutritious food for all and ensure policy implementation in line with the Right to Food and Food Sovereignty Act.

Examples of Innovation Bundles to be Rigorously Tested

  1. Post-harvest supply innovations bundled with demand innovations that test the effectiveness of technological and social-behavioral change innovations in the food environment in reducing food loss and waste
  2. Supply and demand innovation bundling transportation, market storage/cooling innovations with demand creation activities, including innovations in the food environment to improve access to nutrient dense commodities
  3. Climate smart supply side innovations bundled with demand side innovations that test innovation bundles to enhance storage, packaging, or cooling of perishable foods

Innovation bundles being tested will focus on the following food groups:

  1. Fish and other aquaculture products
  2. Dairy, poultry, eggs
  3. Dark green leafy vegetables
  4. Vitamin A rich fruits and vegetables

Overarching Research Questions to be Addressed:

  1. What is the effectiveness of implementation of specific innovation bundles?
  2. What is the cost-effectiveness of specific innovation bundles?
  3. How was the innovation or innovations implemented, what was the process of implementation, what were the barriers and facilitators of success?
  4. What is the potential of commercialization and scalability of tested innovation bundles?
  5. What is the cost of delivery of tested innovation bundles to potential adopters/users, and the potential measurable impact if implemented at scale.
  6. What are the economic benefits of scaled delivery of tested innovation bundles?
  7. What are the measurable benefits to nutrition of innovation(s)/bundles(s), articulated in terms of cost of adoption and use versus cost of delivery, in relation to measurable outcomes in ‘nutrition’ (diet quality, nutrient sufficiency, reduced inequality in access to nutrient-dense foods).

Definitions of Innovation and Innovation Bundling

FSN-IL considers innovations as products/technologies, practices, and processes (policies, standards, socio-technological bundling of innovations). Proposed innovations can be single or a combination (or bundles) of innovations that addresses critical challenges across the food system value chain (socio-technological bundling).[3] Innovation bundling, either social and/or technological, that is context specific either at the systems level or at different points in the supply chain has been identified as a way forward in supporting agri-food systems transformation. However, it remains necessary to couple technical advances with social and policy change in socio-technical innovation bundles (Barrett et al 2022).[4] Testing of the concepts and/or the implementation of innovation bundles is also critical, as is assessment of the effectiveness of benefits and costs. In this topical area, we will consider research to test and validate new innovations in storage, packaging, and cooling. The questions here will focus on the potential for such innovations to work within the context of the target geographies, if they can be commercialized, and, if so, whether they are cost effective.

 

[1] https://summitdialogues.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/National-Pathway-Report-Malawi.pdf

[2] https://www.fao.org/3/cb7653en/cb7653en.pdf

[3] https://www.nature.com/documents/Bundles_agrifood_transformation.pdf

[4] https://link.springer.com/book/10.1007/978-3-030-88802-2

Timeline

Timeline of Events:

    • Deadline for submission of written questions: February 20, 2024
    • Posting of responses to written questions: February 27, 2024
    • Deadline for submission of EOIs: March 5, 2024
    • Invitations sent for co-creation: March 25, 2024
    • Co-creation process: April 2024
    • Submission of full proposal: May 30, 2024
Application Information and Process

The application process will consist of three stages: submissions of expressions of interest, co-creation process, and assessment and development and submission of a full proposal. Only selected EOIs will be invited for co-creation with FSN-IL. Co-creation may involve FSN-IL leads, technical experts at Tufts and/or consortium partner representatives. Following co-creation assessments by independent review, those selected will be asked to develop and submit a full proposal. Full proposals will include both the technical and budget components. Details and instructions on preparation of the full proposal will be provided to those that are selected in the co-creation assessment.

EOIs must be submitted through Piestar RFx. Late submissions will not be reviewed. Additions or modifications must be received in the system by 5:00 pm EST on the specified deadline (i.e., be sure to allow time for internet delays, as late applications will not be accepted). The FSN-IL is not responsible for late or incomplete submissions.

Applications Instructions for Expressions of Interest

Please download the FSN-IL expression of interest template to complete your application. The following is required at the time of EOI submission:

 

  • Title Page (1 page maximum)
    • Project title
    • Target country
    • Title
    • PI (include name, title, institutional address, phone, fax, and email)
    • List of collaborating institutions and organizations
    • Universal Entity Identification (UEI) from the System for Award Management (SAM)
    • Contact information for authorized official from the lead institution
  • Technical Narrative (4 page maximum)
    • This includes:
      • A clear problem statement aligned with country priorities outlined for one of the focus countries. challenges in implementing solutions/ideas presented in the national food systems transformation pathways
      • Using the provided background, present their view of the research opportunities and outline critical research questions and proposed study type to answer those questions in one of the focus countries. The potential of the proposed study to have a significant impact should be provided.
      • The EOI should provide a justification/rationale for selecting the specific innovation (or bundle of innovations) topic and how the research would increase local and global knowledge.
      • Demonstrate how the research around the innovation influences the drivers of consumption choice in vulnerable populations, such as women and children, and how that is likely to translate to increased intake of safe, diverse, and nutritious foods and thus improved nutrition outcomes.
      • A demonstration of expertise in addressing one or more cross-cutting themes of gender and youth and climate smart and resilient food systems. Applicants are encouraged to review USAID’s 2012 Gender and Female Empowerment Policy[1] and 2012 Youth in Development Policy[2] and are encouraged to leverage the findings of the “Gender Integration in USAID’s Agricultural Research Investments: A Synthesis of Key Findings and Best Practices.”[3]  If expertise lies in climate smart and resilient food systems, applications must demonstrate how their research has contributed to the evidence base. For instance, activities focused on applied pro-resilience studies should support investments in storage, packaging, and cooling of nutrient dense perishable foods, ensuring food safety and minimizing food loss and waste under the most extreme environmental conditions.[1] https://www.usaid.gov/policy/gender-equality[2] https://www.usaid.gov/policy/youth[3] https://www.agrilinks.org/gender-research
  • PI Qualifications (2 pages per CV; 4 pages maximum)
    • Required: CV of PI (maximum of 2 pages)
    • Optional: CV of lead host-country PI/collaborator (maximum of 2 pages)
  • Past Performance Narrative (4 page maximum)
    • Outline the applicant and its proposed partners expertise in implementing and testing innovations including cost effectiveness and development of business models that are focused on enhancing availability of nutrient-dense foods or ensuring food safety of nutrient dense foods and/or supported the prevention of food loss and waste specifically of perishable commodities.
    • Highlight the experience of all listed entities in the selected focus countries and indicate the background and expertise of all these organizations involved including the technical and managerial staff or team proposed for engagement.
  • Citations/References
    • This includes a list of references used in the expression of interest.
Questions

Questions regarding this RFA should be submitted via Piestar or to foodsystemsnutrition@tufts.edu by February 20, 2024. Answers will be posted on February 27, 2024.

Previous FSN-IL Request for Applications (RFA): Actions to Support Storage, Packaging, and/or Cooling Innovations for Perishable Foods in Target Geographies