Posts Tagged: Food
Cooperative Extension researcher: Nutrition course a boon for UC Berkeley students
College students across the nation are struggling to meet their basic food needs. Within the University of California system of 280,000 students, 38% of undergraduate students and 20% of graduate students report food insecurity.
As part of the UC Global Food Initiative, in 2015 the Nutrition Policy Institute (a UC Agriculture and Natural Resources statewide research center) identified student food insecurity as a UC systemwide problem, prompting the UC Regents and campuses to collectively address the issue.
All 10 UC campuses now have on-site basic needs centers, providing food, emergency housing and support services. The UC system and campus working groups recognize that meeting basic needs, such as food, is a multidimensional challenge.
In response to the 2022 White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health, which called for national efforts to reduce diet-related disease and food insecurity, UC renewed their commitment to cut the proportion of students facing food insecurity in half by 2030. Campuses will partner with local counties to maximize enrollment in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (also known as CalFresh in California), provide food for students who do not qualify for CalFresh, and allocate campus food resources to historically underserved student populations.
NPI's collaborative researchers continue to monitor the impact of these efforts, in addition to other interventions, such as supporting students in building basic culinary skills, to improve food security. One multipronged approach to address food insecurity at UC Berkeley is a 14-week course on Personal Food Security and Wellness with a Teaching Kitchen laboratory component.
Sarah Minkow, who teaches the Personal Food Security and Wellness course at UC Berkeley, shared that students learn about nutrition and gain culinary skills through the Cal Teaching Kitchen.
The curriculum is designed with consideration for the time, cost and convenience of healthy eating. Discussions include food safety, calculating nutrient needs, mindful eating and reading nutrition labels. The Teaching Kitchen laboratory brings the lessons to life through knife skills, “no-cook” cooking, microwave cooking and sheet pan meals.
Minkow enthusiastically highlighted her students' “overwhelmingly positive [response to the] lecture and lab,” suggesting the benefits of an interactive learning environment to garner student engagement.
“Students often give feedback that they wish this was a required course for all UC Berkeley students,” said Minkow. She noted one barrier to reaching more students: capacity of the Teaching Kitchen space.
Susana Matias, a Cooperative Extension specialist at the UC Berkeley Department of Nutritional Sciences and Toxicology and collaborative researcher with the NPI, evaluated the impact of the Personal Food Security and Wellness course at UC Berkeley.
Matias reported that increasing food literacy and culinary skills among students has shown to increase intake of fruits and vegetables, and frequency of cooking, and reduce the number of skipped meals. Her study on the impact of the 14-week nutrition course also found a significant decrease in student food insecurity.
Across the UC System, students are benefiting from their campus Teaching Kitchens, including UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UCLA and UC Riverside. Other campuses such as UC San Diego, UC San Francisco, UC Santa Cruz and UC Santa Barbara offer basic student cooking classes as well.
Katherine Lanca, UC Global Food Initiative fellow working with NPI, attended the 2022 Teaching Kitchen Research Conference as part of her fellowship to learn about the latest research on teaching kitchens supporting equitable health outcomes.
The conference was hosted at UCLA by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health Department of Nutrition in association with the Teaching Kitchen Collaborative. Teaching kitchens are a promising approach to supporting food security and cultivating lifelong habits, especially among a college student population./h3>
UC Master Food Preservers give live canning demonstrations at Orange County Fair
If you visited the Orange County Fair in Costa Mesa during the past month, you might have seen the Master Food Preservers of Orange County in their rustic farmhouse-themed kitchen located in the OC Promenade exhibit hall.
If the decor did not catch your eye, the colorful rows of glass jars lined along the walls certainly would have. For an entire month, three volunteers conducted live canning demonstrations from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. five days a week. They are with the UC Master Food Preserver Program, a public service and outreach program under UC Agriculture and Natural Resources.
The OC Fair is UC Master Food Preserver's largest event in Orange County. Last year, the UC Master Food Preservers engaged 7,000 people at their booth.
Food preservation has a deep history rooted in human survival. Whether freezing, drying, fermenting or pickling, preservation is a practice that has prolonged the life of food and humans. Other benefits include reducing food waste and increasing food security.
The latest form of preservation, called canning, was introduced in the early 1800s according to a Smithsonian article. By placing food in a glass jar and heating it to a certain temperature for a prescribed period of time, oxygen is removed and a vacuum is created. This process prevents the growth of undesirable bacteria, yeasts and molds, thus keeping the food from spoiling.
This is what you would have found the UC Master Food Preservers demonstrating at the OC Fair.
During her shift, Flo Vallejo, UC Master Food Preserver since 2018, carefully chopped carrots and daikon into thin slices and placed them inside small mason jars with spices inspired by Vietnamese cuisine.
“This is something my great-grandmother, grandmother and mother did. I never understood it because they didn't let the little kids in the kitchen,” said first-year UC Master Food Preserver Alice Houseworth.
Many of the UC Master Food Preservers have some experience with canning, whether it be a practice passed down from generation to generation, or, in Houseworth's case, something they watched their elders do as a child.
Esa Kiefer, another UC Master Food Preserver since 2018, expressed her concern for the rising prices of food and decline in arable land. “I feel like now is the time to prepare for these changing times,” she said. “Who knows what the future will look like for food?”
Perhaps the future of food will come from glass jars.
“You can even can chicken,” Houseworth said. “When it's cheap at the grocery store, you can buy it and use the pressure canner and then eat it when chicken prices go up.”
Vallejo recalls when pickling and canning were trending on social media during the stay-at-home phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, making it difficult to find mason jars.
“Preservation has been done for a long time. When I saw a lot of people doing it during the pandemic, I thought it was just because people had time on their hands. But I realized that many became concerned about the food supply and accessibility,” she explained.
The resurgence in food preservation interest makes the work of the UC Master Food Preserver program much more essential. Whether you are feeding a large family, living in a food desert or managing a tight budget, food preservation ensures you are fed today, tomorrow and beyond.
To learn more about the Master Food Preserver Program or to locate the nearest program in your area, visit: https://mfp.ucanr.edu/.
UC Thelma Hansen Fund to host online discussion of food systems April 26-28
Members of the public are invited to attend a free webinar series discussing local and regional food systems on April 26-28.
At the three-day webinar “Local Food: Shortening the Supply Chain and Reducing Food Waste,” UC Berkeley agricultural economics professor and Wolf Prize laureate David Zilberman will discuss the status of our food supply chain and the socioeconomic and environmental forces affecting it. Diana Winter, deputy director of the UCLA Resnick Center for Food Law and Policy, will delve into the role of law and policy and current sustainability initiatives at federal, state and local levels.
“Do you ever wonder how far your food travels before it gets to your plate? Local food has many benefits: a smaller carbon footprint, supports local farmers and businesses, and is likely to be fresher, tastier and more nutritious,” said Annemiek Schilder, director of UC Cooperative Extension and the UC Hansen Agricultural Research & Extension Center in Ventura County.
Topics of discussion include defining regional food systems in California and how they contribute to community health. The series will take a look at a local school district that works to shorten the supply chain by preparing delicious meals from whole and local ingredients and turning cafeterias into classrooms. A local farmer will speak to the challenges of producing and distributing food locally.
“According to the USDA, about 30% to 40% of all our food supply is wasted, before or after market. Think of all the water, fertilizer, labor and fuel and wasted to produce and ship that food,” said Schilder who is organizing the event.
There are actions consumers can take to reduce food waste. Ned Spang, associate professor of food science and technology at UC Davis, will discuss solutions to food loss and waste throughout the supply chain. Programs such as UC Master Food Preservers offer resources and practical advice to preserve food. Local nonprofits like Food Share help to recover and redistribute food within communities.
Registration for the webinar series, which is sponsored by the UC Thelma Hansen Fund, is free. To register and see the agenda and speaker biographies, visit http://ucanr.edu/HansenFoodSystems.
- David Zilberman, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, UC Berkeley
Our food supply: Where Are We and Where Are We Going?
- Diana Winters, Ph.D., Deputy Director, Resnick Center for Food Law and Policy, UCLA
Food Policy and Sustainability
- Gail Feenstra, Ph.D., Director UC Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education Program
Regional Food Systems: Connecting Farms, Consumer, and Communities
- Vanessa Zajfen, Director Food and Nutrition Services, Ocean View School District, Oxnard, California
Shortening the Supply Chain with “Farm to School”
- Max Becher, Co-Owner, Farmivore, Oxnard, California
Farmivore: Connecting Farmers with Eaters
- Ned Spang, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Food Science and Technology, UC Davis
Advancing Solutions to Address Food Loss and Waste
- Sue Mosbacher, Coordinator UC Master Food Preserver Program
Preserve Today, Relish Tomorrow: Education in Food Preservation
- Monica White, President & CEO, Food Share, Ventura County
Saving Food to Help Those in Need
More green spaces and urban farming opportunities could be helpful in future disasters
People who turned to gardening during the COVID-19 pandemic did so to relieve stress, connect with others and grow their own food in hopes of avoiding the virus, according to a survey conducted by researchers at the University of California, Davis, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources and international partners.
The survey report, “Gardening during COVID-19: experiences from gardeners around the world,” highlights the positive role gardening plays in mental and physical health, said Alessandro Ossola, an assistant professor of plant sciences.
“Connection to nature, relaxation and stress relief were by far the biggest reasons gardeners cited,” Ossola said.
The researchers sent links to online surveys via targeted emails to gardening groups, in newsletters and on social media between June and August 2020. They were hoping to gauge the significance of gardening as a way to cope with risk, how the pandemic changed gardening and what barriers existed.
More than 3,700 surveys were returned by gardeners from Australia, Germany and the United States.
Isolation, depression, anxiety reported
More than half of those responding said they felt isolated, anxious and depressed during the early days of the pandemic and 81% had concerns about food access. During this time, people also had more time to garden, and they saw the activity as a safe haven and a way to connect socially with others.
“Not only did gardeners describe a sense of control and security that came from food production, but they also expressed heightened experiences of joy, beauty and freedom in garden spaces,” said the report, which broke up responses by region or states.
In California, for instance, 33% of gardeners said their plots generated about 25% of their produce needs. Some gardeners with access to large spots to garden also grew food for their community.
Gardening offered a way to socialize safely during the pandemic
“People found new connections in the garden,” said Lucy Diekmann, a UC Cooperative Extension urban agriculture and food systems advisor who helped write the report. “It became a shared hobby as opposed to an individual one.”
Responses were fairly similar across all locations, even though the surveys hit in the summer and winter depending on location. “We see remarkable similarities in terms of what people are saying and the way they are interacting with their gardens,”Diekmann said.
More green opportunities needed
Many respondents also found it hard to find and buy seeds or plants and locate a spot to grow.
The report findings suggest an opportunity for government, community groups, businesses and others to promote community health by providing green spaces.
Gardening should be thought of as a public health need, one that could serve communities well in future pandemics or disasters. New Zealand, Canada and some countries in Europe write green prescriptions for people to garden to improve health.
“We need to change the narrative of how urban gardening is framed and elevate it to a key strategy for both environmental and public health,” Ossola said.
UC Davis graduate student Summer Cortez assisted with the research, as did Monika Egerer at the Technical University of Munich in Germany and experts from these Australian-based entities: Brenda Lin at Commonwealth Science and Industrial Research Organization, Jonathan Kingsley at Swinburne University of Technology and Pauline Marsh at University of Tasmania.
UC SAREP's Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems grant helps support Second Chance garden
Fifteen-year-old Xavier knows the anger within him will never leave. “I can't ever get rid of it,” he said.
“I've always wanted to just fight for no reason; I just had an anger issue, losing my temper quick with people,” added Xavier, a ninth-grader in San Diego County. “I have high expectations of myself.”
Xavier is working to keep his emotions under control, and he has found a sense of calm through his volunteer work. He was an intern – and then a peer supervisor – in the youth-run garden of Second Chance, a San Diego-based organization that works to break the cycles of poverty and incarceration by providing housing and job training to adults and young people.
Operating their garden as a small farm business, youth in the program, ages 14 to 21, offer produce to the community through their farm stand and a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) model.
“The project incorporates a ‘farm to fork' approach in which youth not only experience how to grow food, but how to cook and eat healthfully,” said Gail Feenstra, director of the University of California Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program, which has a grant program that funds research and education projects – such as the youth garden – supporting sustainable food systems.
“Second Chance works primarily with youth in communities of color, providing them with training and also helping them develop confidence in themselves,” Feenstra said.
Filling a critical need for fresh produce
Caelli Wright, program manager of the Second Chance youth garden, said that grant funds from SAREP – a program of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources – have been used to purchase the supplies needed to sustain the program. The garden has filled a critical need for produce during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“After the pandemic hit, we recognized the increased need for fresh food in our neighborhoods,” Wright said. “That need was already there – southeast San Diego is considered a ‘food swamp' or ‘food apartheid', if you will – and with the onset of COVID, that need just escalated with unemployment and complications in our food production systems.”
Through a partnership with UC San Diego Center for Community Health and Encanto Elementary School (located down the block from the garden), donations enabled the program to give its CSA shares to about 25 families at Encanto. Over the course of the pandemic, the youth have grown 10,000 pounds of produce to donate.
At the same time, the program helps the young participants grow. For Xavier, being outdoors with peers empowered him to develop positive relationships. Previously, as a student in a charter school program, he was not accustomed to interacting with people and groups. Volunteering in the youth garden has given him a fresh perspective and understanding of others.
“Learning to be patient with people and [to] accept sometimes that if I don't know something, I need to ask about it, because I used to be so in my ego that I thought I knew everything,” Xavier explained. “But I don't know everything – I just learned to accept some things…that's just being part of life. And that's something that the garden has helped me with, personally.”
Opportunities for personal, social growth
Developing – and redeveloping – social skills are especially important for students, as they return from the disconnections associated with remote learning.
“Right now, with a lot of students facing the aftermath of COVID and being restricted to learning at home and not getting as much social interaction in their daily lives, it's led to a lot of challenges, mental health-wise, and social and emotional learning-wise,” Wright said. “The garden program provides that opportunity that some youth have been missing out on.”
In southeast San Diego, such crucial opportunities for personal growth and career exploration are harder to come by, and Second Chance started the garden in 2012 to give youth a unique work experience and valuable skills. About 400 young people have participated in the program.
“The youth that we serve are coming from low-income neighborhoods that are underserved with resources,” Wright said. “They just are not exposed to the same opportunities [as those in higher-income areas] to build skills or be ready for the workforce or to reach higher education – so that's where our program comes in and helps deliver those needed services.”
Xavier, who originally came to the garden because he heard that landscaping could be a lucrative career, recently finished his second stint as a peer supervisor in the youth garden. With his new skills, he and his cousin are looking to start a business of their own, cutting grass and doing yardwork in their community.
And, late last month, Xavier transferred to a more traditional high school environment.
“Being in a charter school after two, three years,” he said, “I've realized I miss being around more people.”/h3>/h3>/h2>