Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Global Food Initiative and UCSC FSWG

The University of California is harnessing its resources to address one of the critical issues of our time: how to sustainably and nutritiously feed a world population expected to reach 8 billion by 2025. Announced by President Napolitano in 2014, all UCs are contributing to the Global Food Initiative goals of:
  • Working together across the UC system to create solutions that improve food security, health, and sustainability throughout California, the U.S., and the world 
  • Identifying best practices to address food needs and create toolkits to share locally and globally 
  • Using the latest UC research to help communities access healthy, sustainable food 
  • Applying UC expertise to shape and drive food policy discussions 
Here at UCSC, we are the leading university in sustainable food -- so much so that we doubled our 2020 challenge of real food, from 20% to 40% after reaching the systemwide goal in 2012. To gain a better understanding of where the food movement on campus is headed, Alyssa Billys, a Global Food Initiative Fellow from the Food Systems Working Group (FSWG) sat down to give us an update, including ways to get involved, what she's been involved with, and what’s up with the Global Food Initiative. 

FSWG is a food justice organization on campus that works directly with the Farm and Dining. One way to get involved is participating with the Food System Learning Journeys offered four times a quarter through the Recreational Department. Just last week, one of the journeys visited a vineyard started by an alum from the Apprentice Program at the CASFS Farm where all workers are given sustainable wages of $15 an hour. The learning journeys also offer workshops with organizations like Program in Community & Agroecology (PICA) and the Demeter Library to connect the community with a hands-on understanding of our food systems. The main goal of these Food System Learning Journeys is to facilitate conversation around food while eating food to gain an awareness and understanding of what you are eating.

The Farm to Dining project aims to connect all the Dining Hall needs with the Farm so that the Farm can grow the exact poundage that Dining needs. This is the main purpose of the new Quarry plot field at CASFS. Alyssa has been the liaison to connect the Farm and Dining with Daryl Wong, the Farm Site and Research Lands Manager.

Additionally, an impressive $800,000 from UC Office of the President has also been distributed to all UCs to revamp and re-establish the Food Pantries, which are places for low-income students and students who rely on financial aid to purchase fresh food, canned food, and pick up food stamps. Our Food Pantry at UCSC is found at Family Student Housing.

“I think some people almost feel ashamed to purchase food from the Food Pantry but it’s not something that should be like that, where all university students are paying an astronomical amount of money to go to school here and over 50% of students skip a meal to save money. So how do we make it so our students aren’t hungry? So they have access to food and it’s healthy?”
 -- Alyssa Billys

To promote these opportunities, Alyssa, Damian Parr, CASFS Research and Education Coordinator, Jim Clark, CASFS videographer, and Brandon Blackburn, CASFS photographer, are currently working on experiential learning videos about internships and classes on the Farm as well as the Apprenticeship Program. To make these films possible, UCSC received a portion of $150,000 from UCOP; the money is split between all UCs for the production experiential learning videos. They are now filming!

An Agroecological Catalog is also being made to combine the knowledge of agriculture across all UCs to provide an accessible way to obtain research, project plans, and ideas systemwide about our food systems. Right now, Alyssa and Katie Monsen are working on the parameters of what the catalog should cover.

“For the Global Food Initiative, we should be looking out for how to get more students involved. This is an on-going process for the next 5-7 years. What other students want to get involved? It's a chance to be a part of the money transactions, be able to monitor how things are being used--it's not just faculty doing it but students empowering other students.” 
-- Alyssa Billys

The best way to connect with FSWG and the work they’re doing is to email ucscfswg [at] gmail [dot] com and express interest in wanting engage in the conversation and play a role in the Global Food Initiative.

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