By Dateline staff
The University of California, Davis, is front and center as the UC system musters its collective strength to help bolster the world’s food supply — making it healthier, larger and sustainable for a population headed toward 8 billion by 2025.
UC President Janet Napolitano announced the UC Global Food Initiative on July 1, first in Berkeley, then in Sacramento and finally Los Angeles. Helene Dillard, dean of the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, joined Napolitano for the second announcement, which came during the monthly meeting of the California State Board of Food and Agriculture.
“At UC Davis, we have the additional benefit of the newly founded World Food Center, which will work with the UC Global Food Initiative to inventory the expansive expertise we have in agriculture across the UC system and help turn that knowledge into actions that address the global food challenges we face,” Dillard said outside the meeting.
The systemwide initiative is based on the existing strengths of the 10 UC campuses, the systemwide division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
The different segments will work in subcommittees, with the Davis campus designated as a co-leader in these areas:
- Agricultural sustainability
- California’s response to climate change
- Leveraging research for policy change
- Student experiential learning
- Food and agriculture literacy
The initiative encompasses UC’s tradition of innovative agricultural, health and environmental research, and expands on these efforts by incorporating other disciplines such as law and the humanities, education and social science to better shape, impact and drive food policy discussions.
UC will practice what it preaches, as the campuses strive to be models for the state, nation and world. UC Davis is already a showcase for these systemwide goals:
• Dining systems should encourage sustainable farming practices, healthy diets and zero waste — Check out UC Davis Dining Services’ sustainability website, http://dining.ucdavis.edu/sustainability.html.
• Farmers market on every campus — The UC Davis Farmers Market, established in 2007, is held every Wednesday, fall and spring quarters, http://farmersmarket.ucdavis.edu.
• Food pantry on every campus — UC Davis students run The Pantry, http://thepantry.ucdavis.edu. It opened in 2011.
UC Davis is also a model for student farming: at the 37-year-old Student Farm (which sells to Dining Services and the Coffee House); and a garden plot in the Segundo housing area.
Under the UC Global Food Initiative, Napolitano also wants to see the campuses exercise their collective purchasing power and explore purchasing partnerships with kindergarten-through-12th-grade school districts. Further, the initiative aims to bring about new policies whereby small growers can become campus suppliers.
Best practices and toolkits
The initiative’s first phase calls for identifying best practices and developing toolkits to implement those practices — toolkits that, once successfully deployed around UC, can be made available everywhere.
Dillard said UC Davis will work to develop and disseminate management guidelines for food production, distribution and safety, plus school and youth nutrition programs.
UC is funding three $2,500 President’s Global Food Initiative Student Fellowships at each campus, to be awarded to undergraduate or graduate students for research projects or internships.
“The $7,500 allocated to each campus is ‘seed money’ for additional student support, and it provides us with an additional way to grow the future agriculture leaders of California, our country and throughout the world,” Dillard said.
“We are pleased that President Napolitano is eager to help us support great young minds to help solve these global food challenges.”
1 billion go to bed hungry
Napolitano said the initiative grew out of a commitment made by all 10 chancellors and herself. “It is a commitment to work collectively to put a greater emphasis on what UC can do as a public research university, in one of the most robust agricultural regions in the world, to take on one of the world’s most pressing issues.”
She noted that by the year 2025, the world’s population would grow by 1 billion people. Already, she said, 1 billion people go to bed hungry every night, while a half-billion others suffer from obesity.
The initiative is not limited to seeking any single solution or set of solutions to the myriad food issues confronting the world, Napolitano said.
“The idea,” she said, “is to provide the intellectual and technical firepower, as well as the operational examples needed for communities in California and around the world to find pathways to a sustainable food future.”
Napolitano noted UC’s extraordinary capability for outreach on food and health, already exemplified by agricultural and public service programs in every California county and in more than 100 nations.
The initiative’s goal is similarly far-reaching: “It is to do all we can to help the world learn to feed itself in ways that are healthy and sustainable in the use of resources,” she said.