Meet the team

Jennifer van de Ligt, PhD

Jennifer van de Ligt

Director, Food Protection and Defense Institute
Associate Professor, College of Veterinary Medicine

Dr. van de Ligt has an extensive background in animal feed and human food production, nutrition, modeling, safety, and regulations, with academic, industry, and global perspectives. She focuses on food and feed security, safety, defense, and supply-chain resiliency.

Debra Freedman, PhD

Debra FreedmanEducation Manager, Food Protection and Defense Institute
Collegiate Office of Online Learning, College of Veterinary Medicine

Dr. Freedman works with University of Minnesota researchers and scholars, government, food industry professionals, public school teachers, and other emergency responders to develop teaching materials, certificate programs, courses, and training guides. 

Amy Kircher, DrPH

Amy KircherSenior Advisor, Food Protection and Defense Institute
Assistant Professor, College of Veterinary Medicine


Dr. Kircher researches identification and warning of food disruptions through data fusion and analysis. Previously, Dr. Kircher held epidemiologist positions at NORAD - US Northern Command - and with the US Air Force, where she worked on health informatics, biosurveillance, and data analytics.

John T. Hoffman

John Hoffman headshotSenior Research Fellow, Food Protection and Defense Institute
Colonel, USA, Retired

After a thirty year military career, Col. Hoffman served as the first Food and Agriculture Infrastructure Program Manager within the new U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Infrastructure Protection Directorate from 2003 to 2005. In 2007 he joined the National Center for Food Protection and Defense, later the Food Protection and Defense Institute, at the University of Minnesota as a Senior Research Fellow. In this capacity Col. Hoffman has worked with government and industry to document and assess vulnerabilities within the national food and agriculture sector, identify effective mitigation steps and build resilience into these critical national supply chains to assist in the implementation of our national health security.