Alice Waters and Janet Napolitano. Photo- University of California
Edible Schoolyard and Chez Panisse founder Alice Waters with UC President Janet Napolitano at the Edible Schoolyard at King Middle School in Berkeley on July 1, 2014 Photo: University of California

UC President Janet Napolitano visited Berkeley’s Edible Schoolyard on Tuesday to launch a new initiative which aims to pull together the resources of ten UC campuses to address, and hopefully find solutions to, issues of food security, health and sustainability internationally.

The UC Global Food Initiative was conceived following a meeting held earlier this year between Napolitano and UC campus chancellors at which they agreed to work collectively to support healthy eating on the international stage. But their efforts will start at home. The project will identify best practices and share them widely within the UC system.

Yesterday morning, Napolitano was shown around the Edible Schoolyard garden at King Middle School by its founder, Chez Panisse owner Alice Waters, who is one of the members of the university’s Food Initiative Working Group. Other members of the group who attended the launch included UC Santa Cruz Professor Daniel Press, executive director of the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems at that campus, and Ann Thrupp, executive director of the Berkeley Food Institute at UC Berkeley.

Janet Napolitano planted an oregano bush at the UCLA student-run garden on Tuesday July 1, 2014. Photo: University of California
Janet Napolitano planted an oregano bush at the UCLA student-run garden on Tuesday July 1, 2014. Photo: University of California

At the launch, Napolitano noted that by the year 2025, the world’s population will grow by another billion people. Already, she said, 1 billion people go to bed hungry every night, while another half billion suffer from obesity.

“Our goal is far-reaching,” Napolitano said in a release. “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.”

As part of the initiative, campuses will use their collective purchasing power and dining practices to encourage sustainable farming practices, and model healthy eating and zero food waste. New policies will be enacted to allow small growers to serve as suppliers for UC campuses. Food pantries and farmers markets that exist on some campuses will be spread to all 10. UC will explore possible procurement partnerships with K-12 school districts. Food issues will be integrated into more undergraduate and graduate courses, and campuses will create demonstration gardens for experiential learning.

Napolitano stressed that student engagement will be key to the program’s success and announced the funding of 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.

After leaving the Edible Schoolyard, Napolitano headed to the California Department of Food and Agriculture in Sacramento, and then on to UCLA to continue spreading the word about the new program. At the UCLA campus she planted an oregano plant with a student, Ian Davies, in the student-run garden.

Read more about the Global Food Initiative at the University of California’s website.

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Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...