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Posts Tagged: food security

UC commits $3.3 million to tackle food access issues

Guided by the findings of an in-depth University of California survey, UC President Janet Napolitano has approved $3.3 million in new funding over the next two years to help students regularly access nutritious food on campus and off, UC announced today (July 11).

The funding, which includes $151,000 for each of UC's 10 campuses, is in addition to the $75,000 per campus that Napolitano allocated in 2015 to address the immediate challenges of ensuring that students have ready access to nutritious food, and reflects the UC Global Food Initiative goal of promoting a nutritious, sustainable food supply.

“Food security is a critical issue not only on college campuses, but throughout our country and the world,” Napolitano said. “We undertook this survey, and are acting on its findings, because the University is serious about addressing real, long-term solutions to improve the well-being of our students.”

To better gauge the food security of its students, UC administered an online survey in spring 2015 to a randomly selected sample of students from all UC campuses. Of the 66,000 students asked to participate, nearly 9,000 completed the survey – a 14 percent response rate. Undergraduate and graduate students were invited to participate in one of two ways: through the National College Health Assessment II survey administered by the American College Health Association, or through an independent campus survey administered by the UC Office of the President‘s Institutional Research and Academic Planning Division. In both formats, the survey utilized a six-item U.S. Department of Agriculture food security module.

The survey responses were evaluated by the UC Nutrition Policy Institute, part of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources.

According to the survey, 19 percent of UC students indicated they had “very low” food security, which the USDA defines as experiencing reduced food intake at times due to limited resources. An additional 23 percent were characterized as having “low” food security, defined by the USDA as reduced quality, variety or desirability of diet, with little or no indication of reduced food intake.

Based on the results of this Food Access and Security study and in conjunction with student representatives systemwide, UC developed an action plan tailored to the needs of individual campuses while maximizing coordination among them. The plan includes:

  • Expanding food pantry storage and access
  • Increasing collaboration with state and county offices to register students for CalFresh, California's nutrition assistance program
  • Establishing and expanding awareness campaigns on student support services and food access
  • Expanding the existing Swipe Out Hunger programs, which allow university students to donate excess dollars on their meal plan to reduce hunger on campuses
  • Integrating food preparation and secure storage space into new student housing design and construction
  • Enhancing financial aid communications about housing and food costs

These measures build on UC's efforts to address the issues of student food access. In 2014, Napolitano and UC's 10 chancellors launched the UC Global Food Initiative and in 2015 asked each campus to form a food security working group that included undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, staff, administration, and community experts. These working groups formalized ongoing campus efforts on all nine undergraduate campuses to establish food pantries for emergency relief and to develop plans to expand the Swipe Out Hunger programs. UC also convened the California Higher Education Food Summit at UC Santa Barbara in 2015 and UC Irvine in 2016 to discuss strategies for improving food security.

The study is available to download here: http://ucop.edu/global-food-initiative/best-practices/food-access-security/student-food-access-and-security-study.pdf

Swipe Out Hunger programs allow university students to donate excess dollars on their meal plan to reduce hunger on campuses.
Posted on Monday, July 11, 2016 at 4:54 PM

Community and home gardens improve San Jose residents’ food security

The La Mesa Verde program in San Jose helps low-income families to establish their own vegetable gardens
Growing food in community and home gardens can provide people with more access to fresh vegetables for a healthier food supply, according to a new study. University of California and Santa Clara University researchers surveyed people in San Jose who maintained a garden in their yard or a community garden and found that gardeners consumed more vegetables when they were eating food grown in their gardens.

Participants in the pilot study, published in California Agriculture journal, reported doubling their vegetable intake to a level that met the number of daily servings recommended by the U.S. Dietary Guidelines. Meals rich in fresh fruits and vegetables are lower in calories and higher in fiber and part of a healthy diet.

About 13.5 percent of California households face food insecurity – reduced quality, variety or desirability of diet and, in some cases, reduced food intake – according to a 2014 USDA Economic Research Service study.

Although Silicon Valley is one of the wealthiest areas of the state, some parts of Santa Clara County have “food deserts,” low-income neighborhoods without grocery stores stocked with fresh fruits and vegetables at affordable prices. Even in neighborhoods with grocery stores, residents may have less to spend on food after paying rising housing costs.

“Gardening made a substantial contribution to vegetable intake regardless of socioeconomic background or previous gardening experience,” said co-author Lucy Diekmann, a postdoctoral researcher in the Food and Agribusiness Institute at Santa Clara University.

Cooking classes help gardeners learn how to prepare and cook a meal using their fresh produce.
Growing food saves money

UC Cooperative Extension surveyed 85 community gardeners and 50 home gardeners in San Jose. The gardeners surveyed were generally low-income and came from a variety of ethnic and educational backgrounds. The survey was available in English, Spanish and Chinese.

By growing their own food, home gardeners saved on average $92 per month and community gardeners saved $84 per month.

A number of programs in California, including Sacred Heart Community Services' La Mesa Verde, help low-income families establish their own vegetable gardens. As of 2013, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits can also be used to purchase seeds and plants so that low-income households can grow their own produce.

One gardener in the La Mesa Verde program told the researchers that without the savings and access to homegrown vegetables, she would have struggled the previous year. Her garden significantly supplemented her diet.

Wider variety of fresh produce

Tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, peppers, green beans and cucumbers were the most common crops grown by community gardeners. La Mesa Verde families were given seeds and plants to grow tomatoes, peppers, beans, basil, zucchini, radishes, cucumbers and eggplants.

Culturally favorite foods were also grown by San Jose's ethnically diverse residents in both community and home gardens. They grew crops including chayote, bitter melon, goji berries, green tomatoes, fava beans, okra, collards and various Asian vegetables, such as bok choy and mustards.

Tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, peppers, green beans and cucumbers are common crops grown in community gardens.
“By growing and eating these foods, gardeners may maintain connections to family or cultural traditions,” the authors wrote. “They may also gain access to desired foods that are either not available or are perceived to be too expensive or of poor quality at local retail outlets.”

Gardeners in both groups gave excess produce to their friends and family members. 

Growing demand for gardens

For the study, the authors collaborated with the San Jose Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Services Department, which runs the city's Community Garden Program. The city operates 18 community gardens that serve more than 900 gardeners and occupy 35 acres in San Jose, yet there is growing demand for more gardening space.

“One of the challenges to starting a garden, particularly for low-income gardeners, is a lack of adequate space,” said Diekmann. “La Mesa Verde gardeners are advocating for San Jose to adopt Urban Agriculture Incentive Zones so that more San Jose residents can have space to garden.”

The study was conducted by UC Cooperative Extension advisor emeritus Susan Algert, Leslie Gray of Santa Clara University, Marian Renvall of UC San Diego Department of Medicine and Diekmann, whose participation in this study was funded by a USDA NIFA Agriculture and Food Research Initiative postdoctoral fellowship.

To read the full report in California Agriculture, visit http://ow.ly/wfWX300Dbzj.

 

 

SNAP benefits can be used to purchase seeds and plants to grow produce.
SNAP benefits can be used to purchase seeds and plants to grow produce.

Posted on Tuesday, May 31, 2016 at 11:36 AM

Community Produce Stand opens March 2 in East Oakland

A farmers market in downtown Oakland may be too far for East Oakland residents to travel to shop for fresh produce.
For senior citizens who don't drive, it can be difficult to get to a grocery store or farmers market to buy fresh fruits and vegetables.

To improve access to fresh produce for low-income seniors who live in a food desert in East Oakland, UC ANR Cooperative Extension in Alameda County, in partnership with Oakland Housing Authority and Mandela Market Place, will be opening a Community Produce Stand.

The Community Produce Stand will be open on the first Wednesday of every month, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., at 6401 Fenham Street in Oakland.

The produce stand will be located in the gazebo at Palo Vista Gardens, a low-income senior housing complex, and available to neighboring residents as well as people in two other Oakland Housing Authority sites, reaching more than 950 Oakland Housing Authority residents.

At the grand opening from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesday, March 2, a health fair will feature UC CalFresh representatives sharing healthy eating tips and recipes. La Clínica Dental, City Slicker Farms, Fresh Approach, Alameda County Community Food Bank and California Telephone Access Program will also participate and share resources. 

The Community Produce Stand will accept CalFresh Electronic Benefit Transfer cards, said Tuline Baykal, UC CalFresh supervisor with UC Agriculture and Natural Resources in Alameda County. “Being able to buy fresh, affordable produce with EBT is important,” Baykal said, “because seniors and other residents may be tempted to opt for less healthy options to stretch their food dollars.”

Food deserts lack vendors that carry fresh fruit, vegetables and other healthful whole foods, and are usually found in poor parts of town. The supermarket closest to Palo Vista Gardens is 1.5 miles away. Between the housing site and the nearest store are half a dozen fast food restaurants and three liquor stores. Six convenience stores are in the vicinity, but they stock mostly processed, sugary and fat-laden foods.

“Low-income seniors often experience multiple barriers to healthful foods,” said Jaime Manalang, resident services coordinator with Oakland Housing Authority. “The lack of grocery stores and farmers' markets within close proximity to home, limited transportation options and their own physical mobility restrictions limit seniors' access to food, especially fresh fruits and vegetables.”

Healthful nutrition is critical for reducing the risk of disease and managing chronic health conditions, and is an important factor to living independently.

Posted on Thursday, February 25, 2016 at 8:00 AM

World Food Center at UC Davis will tackle global issues

When you think casually of “food,” you may think of your next meal or your favorite food. “World food” may broaden your thinking to include international cuisines, global hunger, or a growing population. But the academic fields related to food are numerous. Food is one of life’s basic necessities, and along with its associated issues it is essential to the health and well-being of everyone, whatever their locale, education, or income level.

The new World Food Center at UC Davis will take on a broad purview related to food, including sustainable agricultural and environmental practices, food security and safety, hunger, poverty reduction through improved incomes, health and nutrition, population growth, new foods, genomics, food distribution systems, food waste, intellectual property distribution related to food, economic development and new technologies and policies.

With rapid global population growth occurring on smaller amounts of arable land, coupled with the expected impacts of climate change on food production, understanding the sustainability of food into the future is critical.

The new center’s website notes, “The World Food Center at UC Davis takes a ‘big picture’ approach to sustainably solving humanity’s most pressing problems in food and health. By bringing together world-class scientists with innovators, philanthropists and industry and public leaders, the center will generate the kind of visionary knowledge and practical policy solutions that will feed and nurture people for decades to come.”

In establishing the World Food Center, UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi said, “We did this to fully capitalize on our depth and expertise as the world’s leading university for education, research and scholarship on all aspects of food, but especially the nexus between food and health.”

UC Davis is the top-ranked agricultural university in the world, and California is the major producer of vegetables and fruit in the nation. Tom Tomich, director of the Agricultural Sustainability Institute and professor in the Department of Environmental Science and Policy at UC Davis, says of the World Food Center’s location at UC Davis, “There’s no place else that has the right mix of educational programs, research facilities, and the engagement with the state.”

The major academic disciplines surrounding food are found at UC Davis — agriculture, the environment, medicine, veterinary medicine, engineering, social and cultural sciences, and management. More than 30 centers and institutes at UC Davis will be pulled together through the World Food Center. The combination of scholarship, leadership, and partnerships at UC Davis has already established the campus as a center for food-related science and outreach. This new center will reinforce that strength and broaden the university’s ability to tackle tough global issues related to food.

Although the founding director of the center has yet to be named, Josette Lewis, Ph.D., was recently appointed as the associate director of the World Food Center. Her background on international research and development for the U.S. Agency for International Development, and director of its Office of Agriculture, honed her skills to take on the World Food Center. It was at US AID that she worked on a major global hunger and food security initiative, establishing her expertise on issues related to global agricultural development and food security.

As the new World Food Center becomes fully developed, it will be well-positioned on campus to continue to solve the major global issues related to food that are a hallmark of UC Davis.

Additional information:

Can sustainable agriculture feed the world?

We've all heard the argument that organic agriculture cannot feed the world. But as we've seen with the high number of both starving and obese individuals in the world, our current system isn't working either.

If organic agriculture isn't the answer, what about practices close to organic agriculture? What about sustainable agriculture? Can sustainable agriculture feed the world? According to Mark Bittman of the New York Times, it certainly can.

According to Bittman, "Anyone who opens his or her eyes sees a natural world so threatened by industrial agriculture that it’s tempting to drop off the grid and raise a few chickens." But sustainable agriculture practices, such as agro-ecology, immediately help support small farmers in less expensive and more productive ways, and make the system less susceptible to climate shocks.

Even the World Bank supports a shift to more sustainable agricultural practices. Their International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development Report, calls on sustainable practices as a solution to poverty, food security, malnutrition and poor health, environmental degradation, and more.

Anna Lappe, author and food activist, also argues in favor of sustainable agriculture as a means to feeding our growing population. Her short video "Can Sustainable Agriculture Feed the World" markets itself as a myth-buster against large-scale industrial agriculture.

What do you think? Can we feed the world with sustainable agriculture alone?

Posted on Thursday, August 22, 2013 at 3:03 PM
  • Author: Marissa Palin

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