The Buzz about Food Justice

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If you’re wondering why the bees are buzzing more around food these last few months, the answer might have something to do with the new UC Global Food Initiative established by UC President Janet Napolitano in July 2014. The overall goal of the initiative is to leverage the resources of the UC system to figure out how to “sustainably and nutritiously feed a world population expected to reach eight billion by 2025” (http://www.ucop.edu/initiatives/global-food-initiative.html). It’s an ambitious goal.

This initiative also comes at a perfect time for our local community. The Santa Barbara Food Bank and the Community Environmental Council have recently started an initiative to develop a Food Action Plan for Santa Barbara County. As we embark upon these parallel initiatives, we will be working closely together. To get involved in the local Food Action Plan develop, visit Volunteer Match: http://www.volunteermatch.org/search/opp1575805.jsp

The UC Office of the President has formed 23 initial best practice committees at the statewide level to work on achieving this goal. UCSB staff and faculty have been asked to chair or co-chair five of the 23 committees. For a school that doesn’t have an agricultural program, that is pretty significant.

Here are the committees that UCSB is chairing or co-chairing:

  • Best Practices Subcommittee on facilitating small growers’ ability to do business with UC: Robbie Wright, UCSB Dining Services, co-chairing with Jason Souza of UC Merced
  • Project to assess the depth and breadth of food availability and security for UC Students: Katie Maynard, Sustainability Coordinator, co-chairing with UC Agricultural and Natural Resources Division (ANR)
  • Project to compile success stories on research related to food that derives from the ocean and the related sustainability issues: Chris Costello, UCSB Sustainable Fisheries Research Group
  • Best Practices Subcommittee on establishing regular farmers’ markets on campuses: Hazel Ando and Roane Akchurin, Gaucho Certified Farmers’ Market
  • Best Practices Subcommittee on expanding the Swipes for Us Program: Tuyen Nguyen, AS Food Bank

Committee efforts are already underway, with the Associated Students Food Bank heading up the organization of a food justice conference over the Martin Luther King Jr. weekend and Dr. Chris Costello hosting a “food from the sea” summit to bring together researchers from across the state in February.

The subcommittee on facilitating small growers’ ability to do business with UC will also be hosting a meeting in early December with key leaders from UC Merced, UC Santa Barbara, and local food distributors to identify current challenges in increasing local food purchasing and ways to resolve those issues.

In addition, President Napolitano has allocated $7,500 to each campus for three student fellows, each of whom will be allocated $2,500, and UCSB has selected its three UC Global Food Initiative Fellows. According to Katie Maynard, the sustainability coordinator who has been the lead staff member at UCSB working on the food initiative, one of the undergraduate student fellows, Rachel Rouse, will be working on an assessment of food security and accessibility for UC students, and the other two, Kate Parkinson and Emilie Wood, will be working on the project “Reducing Post-Consumer Food Waste in Campus Dining Commons through Behavioral Science.”

A food coalition quickly formed at UCSB after President Napolitano announced that she would be putting together a UC wide food Initiative. This coalition now includes 36 members, consisting of a wide range of faculty, staff, students, and community members working to bridge research, academic, community, and operational efforts and to partner in the UC Food Initiative. The mission of the coalition is to “promote the basic human right of secure access to healthy food for our bodies and the Earth by partnering and coordinating with the collective expertise of local growers, vendors, and non-profits.” We encourage community members, students, staff, and faculty with an interest in these issues to join the coalition. All coalition meetings are also open to the public.

It really is true that with great challenges come great opportunities. If you are interested in learning more about the UC wide food Initiative or getting involved, please contact Katie Maynard at kmaynard@geog.ucsb.edu or Jewel Snavely at Jewel.snavely@vcadmin.ucsb.edu. We look forward to your participation in making sure we achieve our goal of figuring out how to sustainably feed the global population.