UC Global Food Initiative

July 1, 2014

In an appearance with chef Alice Waters, President Janet Napolitano announced the launch of the UC Global Food Initiative at the Edible Schoolyard in Berkeley, CA on July 1, 2014.

Here are her remarks as prepared for delivery:

Thank you, Alice.

We are here this morning, in this beautiful place, to launch the University of California Global Food Initiative.

This initiative grows out of a collective commitment made by all ten UC chancellors and myself. It is a commitment to apply a laser focus on what UC can do as a public research university—in one of the most robust agricultural regions in the world—to take on one of the world’s most pressing issues.

Our goal is audacious, and it is far-reaching. 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.

In taking up this challenge, I would note that by the year 2025, one billion additional people will live on this already stressed planet. I would note also that today, as we stand here, a billion people — most of them in the developing world — suffer from chronic hunger or serious micronutrient deficiencies. Another 1/2 billion — primarily in the industrialized nations of the world — are obese. Put on top of that the increasing pressure on our natural resources, land and water, and you can see the magnitude of what we have before us.

Keep in mind, the issue of “food” is not just about what we eat. It’s about delivery systems. Climate issues. Population growth. Policy. All of these and more come into play when you begin to think about the colliding forces that shape the world’s food future.

While we are thinking globally, we know that there’s work to do right here at home. More than 16% of households in California experience limited access to food. Almost 16 million children across our nation live in food insecure households.

UC already does much on the food front—particularly in the realm of research. This is no surprise. Research is one of UC’s key strengths. In fact, it was UC research that taught Californians how to remove salts from the alkali soils in vast stretches of the Central Valley. This transformed a barren landscape into one of the world’s most productive farming regions.

Today, students at UC Santa Cruz are revolutionizing the field of agroecology.

At the Berkeley Lab, researchers developed a highly efficient cookstove—known as the Darfur stove. This stove addresses food security issues posed by displaced people in Darfur, and at the same time, decreases women’s exposure to violence while collecting firewood.

At the Berkeley Food Institute, researchers are studying the relationship between pest control, conservation, and food safety on Central Coast farms. And I would specifically like to acknowledge Ann Thrupp, who is the Executive Director of the Berkeley Food Institute, and who has joined us here this morning. I also note the presence of Berkeley Deans Keith Gilless and Henry Brady. This initiative is rooted in our campuses, and I’m grateful for your participation.

The cutting-edge Healthy Campus initiative at UCLA draws all members of the campus community.

The emerging World Food Center at Davis will stand with twenty-six other institutes dedicated to food and agriculture on the campus.

We have researchers up in the Sierra hard-wiring our water sources to give us real-time understanding of what to expect in terms of supply.

In the fields of California, UC scientists are developing drought-resistant crops.

Our Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, the three national labs, and every single one of our ten campuses are all engaged in comprehensive and complex research on issues related to food in the broadest sense of the term.

This is the UC way.

We do much. But, together, we can do more. This is the purpose of this initiative.

The Global Food Initiative will expand the UC tradition of innovative research.

In addition to agriculture, other disciplines will play a major role. Law, humanities, health, education, environmental studies—all will be integrated into the food research spectrum.

In my early time on all ten UC campuses, it became clear that some of the most exciting research often occurs when multiple disciplines come together around a single research topic. Multi-disciplinary research for this critical challenge is paramount.

And we will leverage this research to address public policy issues on sustainable production and distribution of healthy food at the state, national, and international levels.

The initiative will span all other elements of day-to-day life at the university, too—from campus operations to curriculum, public policy to public service.

Student engagement is key. The students already lead in this arena. This initiative supports that leadership. That is why today I am announcing the launch of the President’s Global Food Initiative Student Fellowship Program.

The Office of the President will provide $7,500 to each UC campus. This funding will be used for three fellowships of $2,500 each. At the campuses’ discretion, these fellowships will go to undergraduates or graduate students, to fund student-generated research, related projects, or internships that focus on food issues.

Consider this seed money, if you will, as we begin our work through this initiative.

But this new fellowship is just the beginning.

Through our food purchasing power, we will encourage sustainable farming practices, and serve nutritious fare in the dining halls.

We will export the food pantries and farmers markets that exist on some of the campuses to all of them.

We will work with faculty and students to integrate food issues into more undergraduate and graduate courses.

We will expand experiential learning across the entire university. This will include developing demonstration gardens on every campus.

We will enact new policies that allow more small growers to serve as suppliers for the university.

We will deploy data mining of existing data. Doing so will help develop insights and action plans for climate change and California agriculture.

We will undertake all of this under the guiding star of our public service mission. This means working with local school districts to develop healthy and sustainable dining options for K-12 students. Through the division of Agriculture and Natural Resources and the individual campuses, we have already started to engage in this work. Collectively, we can do more.

This initiative will support all of these efforts. The idea behind the initiative is that as we learn more on our campuses and in our communities, we will be able to export the best working practices to our other UC campuses, to California, and beyond—just as we do now with our science.

Now, the food arena is a big tent. And I know there are differences among those gathered beneath it.

What should be grown?

What methods should be used to grow it?

Those sorts of things.

The point is that we need everybody. And when there are disagreements, UC will be the institution to bring everyone together, and to help them find common ground.

We can all step back and agree, for instance, that healthy food is better than unhealthy food.

We can all agree that a world in which a billion people go to bed hungry each and every night is morally unacceptable.

And we can all agree that we need to steward our resources, our land and our water, with agricultural and consumption practices that ensure these essential resources will be there not just for this generation, but for generations and generations to come.

Thank you. I’m happy to take your questions.