Students play an important part in the UC Global Food Initiative and efforts to increase food security, health and sustainability. Here are some of the ways they are involved:

GFI fellows

UC’s Global Food Initiative Student Fellowship Program funds student-generated research, related projects or internships that focus on food issues. All 10 UC campuses plus UC Agriculture and Natural Resources and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory are participating in the program.

The program began in fall 2014, with the fellows participating in an April 2015 tour of an organic peach farm near Fresno and a July 2015 symposium in San Francisco. The second class of fellows was announced in 2015 and participated in an April 2016 tour of an organic farm in the Capay Valley and a June 2016 symposium in Fullerton. The third class of fellows was announced in 2016 and this cohort wrapped up their GFI fellowship with a trip to the San Joaquin Delta to learn about the work of UC ANR Cooperative Extension and participating in the Fullerton symposium. The fourth class of cohorts was announced in June 2017 whose experience culminated in a field trip to UC San Diego to experience the campus farms and local community gardens and participated at the symposium held at UC Santa Barbara. The 2018 class of fellows represented the fifth cohort and traveled to UC Santa Cruz to learn more about their CASFS program and campus farms as part of their year end activity. In July 2019, the sixth cohort was announced and this cohort of fellows participated in a virtual conversation with then-President Napolitano and the first virtual symposium. The application process takes place in late spring and the program is open to both undergraduate and graduate students, and administered at each location to ensure that student efforts align with local needs.

For questions about the GFI Student Fellowship Program, email

UC-USAID fellows

Research and Innovation Fellowship in Agriculture (RIFA) fellows spend two to six months working with partner organizations to address pressing agricultural development challenges having global impact. Originally funded by a grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development to UC Davis, RIFA is now receiving GFI support to scale the program. It will now include graduate-level scholars from all 10 UC campuses working under the mentorship of members of their faculty. Read more about the fellowships.

Food security

As part of its Global Food Initiative, the university is looking inward, ensuring that its own students have food security, as it takes on the bigger issue of hunger around the world.

Guided by the findings of an in-depth UC survey, then-President Janet Napolitano in July 2016 approved $3.3 million in new funding over the next two years to help students regularly access nutritious food on campus and off.

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.

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. The Swipes program, which allows university students to donate unused residential meals to help feed the hungry — either fellow students or the broader community — was started by UCLA students in 2009 and has chapters on six UC campuses with plans to expand to all nine UC undergraduate campuses. Read the GFI's Swipes best practices guide.

Food summit

The inaugural California Higher Education Food Summit was held in January 2015 at UC Santa Barbara. Students helped organize the event, which convened some 150 students, staff and faculty from UC, California State University and community college campuses, and community and food agency leaders at large, to dissect and discuss the environmental, social and economic pressures that create barriers to food access, security and justice. A second summit was held in January 2016 at UC Irvine.

Student competitions

The UC Global Food Initiative has encouraged student innovation in the field of food by helping sponsor several competitions, including the GFI student logo design contest; Big Ideas@Berkeley; and CITRIS Mobile App Challenge at UC Berkeley, UC Davis and UC Merced.

Find out more information about Big Ideas@Berkeley and CITRIS Mobile App Challenge.