Food for thought

UCI provides a full menu of events, activities encouraging new approaches to sustainable nourishment

This academic year, the University of California, Irvine is a campus fit for foodies, having prepared a feast of events and activities that explore and expand upon the role food plays in the major social, political and scientific issues of the day.

From cooking demonstrations by visiting eco-chef Roger Feely to an all-day Global Food Summit, the roster addresses a wide range of topics – all under the umbrella of food – that draw together students, staff, faculty, and some of UCI’s most dynamic centers and academic initiatives.

The following are included. A complete calendar can be found here.

Global Food Summit

Hosted by UCI’s Newkirk Center for Science & Society and Blum Center for Poverty Alleviation, the Global Food Summit on Nov. 4 brings UC faculty and affiliates together with innovative community leaders in Orange County to discuss local and regional food security resilience. They’ll also examine challenges the state’s agricultural industry faces with climate change and drought. Yong Chen, UCI history professor and author of Chop Suey, USA: The Story of Chinese Food in America, will give the keynote speech and hold a book signing. A second Global Food Summit will take place next spring to explore food security issues at a global level.

“We know that the UC can play a major role in addressing the world’s food issues, from technological advances to policy solutions,” says Richard Matthew, professor of planning policy & design. “We want to convene powerful minds to focus on filling data gaps and imbed in students and the community an understanding of the problem.”

For registration information and a full agenda, go here.

Food Matters

As director of UCI’s Community Outreach Partnership Center, Victor Becerra helps the campus lend a hand to neighborhoods in need. And increasingly, he sees food as an important lens through which to view issues of poverty and social justice. His Food Matters series will explore that connection, bringing in speakers to address topics as diverse as gentrification in San Francisco’s Mission District, farmworkers’ food security, and the role menu creation played in the development of modern Los Angeles. The series starts Nov. 17 with Robert Gottlieb, who will talk about “Food Justice, Action Research & the Search for a Transformative Politics.”

“For too long, food has largely been looked at in the context of personal gratification,” says Becerra, who recently took a group of graduate students to Tijuana for a sustainable food tour. “This series provides a range of different issues under the sustainable food umbrella. Here, we can move the conversation about food beyond personal to one focused on the connected, issues – such as poverty and access to healthy food, food production and environment-linked contamination – that people need to consider.”

For more information about the event and the series, go here (pdf).

Community Seed-to-Plate Workshops

UCI’s Sustainability Initiative is hosting a second series of Community Seed-to-Plate Workshops with Roger Feely, an eco-chef and sustainable food systems educator.

He led a very popular seed-to-plate workshop series over the summer on health, nutrition and real food. The workshops, which continue this winter, are designed to foster sustainable living skills in the areas of growing, preparing and producing food through hands-on learning. Practical aspects such as seed saving, gardening basics, preserving and fermentation are covered, and more in-depth training is provided in the seed-to-plate approach to sustainable food systems and cultures.

“Our objective is for sustainability to become part of the education of every UCI student,” says Abigail Reyes, director of the Sustainability initiative. “That education happens both inside and outside the classroom. And it includes how we source and prepare the food we eat. When we think critically about food systems and learn new ways for our communities to access and enjoy healthy food, we bring to life our increasingly common desire to steward a livable planet for all.”

The seed-to-plate series resumes Nov. 20. For more information, go here.

These events and other related activities support the aims of the University of California’s Global Food Initiative, which has set out to create a world that can nutritiously and sustainably feed itself – and to harness the UC’s considerable prowess toward this goal.

“The Sustainability Initiative is only one among many answering this call,” Reyes says. “UCI is providing systemwide leadership on zero-waste dining facilities; several centers, institutes and initiatives are presenting scholarly work; student leaders are addressing campus food security; and practical classes on sustainable eating and cooking abound.”

She adds that together with the Office of the Vice Chancellor, Student Affairs and Hospitality & Dining Services, the Sustainability Initiative is hosting a UCI Food Action Web portal. It offers a calendar of events and opportunities that support the Global Food Initiative’s underlying goals.

Much of the energy driving UCI’s food efforts comes from its students, several of whom have received Global Food Initiative fellowships to pursue campuswide and community outreach work. Part of this support also helped create the new student pantry, which provides free food to Anteaters in need.

Becerra, for one, fully supports this youthful ambition.

“A lot of the issues being born out in the public are issues raised by young people,” he says. “They have really changed how we look at food. I’ve learned a great deal from young people; they’re the ones really driving the conversation. It’s very healthy. I have a lot of hope that we’ll see a new alternative type of food movement down the road.”

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