University of California President Janet Napolitano is bringing together the might of its 10 campuses to tackle some of the world's most pressing food-related issues: food security, sustainable agriculture and eating healthier.
Napolitano announced her far-reaching UC Global Food Initiative on Tuesday at the Edible Schoolyard in Berkeley. She also addressed the California State Board of Food and Agriculture in Sacramento.
"It is our intent to do everything in our power to put the world on a pathway to feed itself in ways that are nutritious and sustainable," Napolitano said.
The initiative aims to harness the research and expertise of the UC campuses to provide potential solutions for feeding a growing global population with sustainable farming practices. At the same time, Napolitano says the UC system can be a leader in the effort to create healthier eating habits, especially on its own campuses.
She mentioned the University of California at Berkeley's efforts to reduce food waste and the move by the University of California at Los Angeles to work with small farmers to supply the campus with produce.
"One of the things we have done is to make sure our procurement practices allow for and encourage involvement with local growers," she said. "And we can expand that."
Part of the initiative will look at developing policies to allow small farmers to become suppliers for universities, colleges and K-12 school districts.
Supporters of that effort applauded Napolitano's initiative.
Jana Narin, chief executive officer of Ag Link, a company in the Merced County town of Ballico that connects farmers with school districts, said she supports any effort to educate and encourage food service directors to buy from local farmers.
"We understand that they have an overwhelming job to do," Narin said. "But if we can give them some additional support to show them that this is a real option, then that would be a big help."
Also included in the food initiative:
Campuses will work at developing healthy eating and zero food waste. Food pantries and farmers markets that exist on some campuses will be spread to all 10 campuses.
Food issues will be integrated into more undergraduate and graduate courses and catalogues of food-related courses will be developed. Demonstration gardens will be made available on each campus to increase opportunities for students.
Emphasizing student involvement, Napolitano said she will fund three $2,500 President's Global Food Initiative Student Fellowships to be awarded on each campus to undergraduate or graduate students. The fellowships will fund student research projects or internships.
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