PANNA stands for Pesticide Action Network of North America. PANNA is part of an international organization working towards a sustainable future without hazardous pesticides. I was first drawn to PANNA because of the work they do around farmworker’s health and pesticides and schools. Their mission statement “Reclaiming the future of food and farming” attracted me to the organization because they are working with the community to achieve this future, while also serving those involved in the food system, not just focusing on “fixing” the problems within the system.
Community-engaged land-use planning at Smyth-Fernwald
I work as a student manager at the Clark Kerr Garden. This space is unique because it intersects many lives: from seniors in affordable-housing apartments, campus faculty, and preschoolers, to first-year college students and dining hall staff. This fall I decided to continue a project focused on a single tract of land next to Clark Kerr. In contrast to the space where I have been pruning trees, planting starts, and saving seed for the past three years, Smyth-Fernwald is a rather underutilized sloping plot with bordering oaks and an abandoned building. But the history of the land is fascinating. Just 4 years ago, there were faculty and their families living here, along with a daycare center and a small community garden. And in the early 1900s there were large gardens and an orchard. Before that, cattle grazed the open grassland. Even before that, the Chochenyo Ohlone inhabited the East Bay and likely utilized Derby Creek which runs along the northern border. In this same space that is now dusty and usually empty, we know there can be something productive and beneficial to the people, and restorative for the entire ecosystem.
For those who don’t already know what I did for my project, here’s the deal: in September I got the Berkeley Food Institute (BFI) newsletter that had a list of cool opportunities for students or graduates. I saw that Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) was taking applications for interns in the garden or nutrition departments, and I decided to apply. In high school I did my senior project (a highly involved and rigorous research paper and thorough presentation) on garden and nutrition education in elementary schools in America, so I was psyched to have this opportunity to engage directly with the topics I’d previously only researched! I applied on the spot and was accepted by Ellen at Longfellow Middle School as a garden intern.
ReGrained is a brilliant food waste company striving to reconfigure the way we use food and its byproducts. The idea came from a problem encountered while the cofounders, Dan Kurzrock and Jordan Schwartz, were still under aged college students at UCLA. They were not impressed by the beer at parties and were too young to buy craft beer so they decided to brew their own. Once the brewing process was complete, they were not only left with their delicious beer but a bunch of spent grains as well.
The leftover brewer’s malt can either be used as compost or sent to farms for animal feed in a more rural setting. As it turns out, this byproduct is more than just a grain that should be fed to cattle. The beer brewing process removes the sugar from the grain and leaves behind a grain rich in protein and fiber. When weighing out the grain, 35% of it can be attributed to fiber and 20% to protein. Combined with a few other ingredients, it makes for the perfect granola bar.
The room buzzed with fervent whispers, the inviting scent of fresh arepas wafting as attendees bustled through our Sweet & Salty night market – the lights dimmed as our first storyteller stepped on stage, graciously inviting us into their world. Sharing the challenges and triumphs of their personal journey in the foodspace, each storyteller brought a different flavor to the evening, creating a feast of stories for us all to indulge in. The level of transparency, honesty, and vulnerability displayed fostered intimacy within a group of strangers — a transient experience with a depth of influence, these connections were what so many long for amidst the anonymity of modern society.
We often think of chocolate as a symbol of love, indulgence, and celebration rather than one of suffering and destruction. There’s a huge gap between how most big name chocolate companies market their products to us and the circumstances of cacao production on the ground. I would venture to say that the vast majority of chocolate consumers in the world have no idea how their chocolate is made, let alone how its primary ingredients—cacao and sugar—are grown. Similarly, many cacao farmers never get to experience the final product into which the fruits of their labor are destined to be transformed.
On one of the last days of my internship, I was reloading the Freshest Cargo mobile farmers market truck to end the day when a woman came up to the back on the truck and asked for just one more bunch of kale. I walked back into the truck to pull out a bunch of kale from the built-in fridge, and when I returned, she was chatting with another woman, who then also asked me for a bunch of kale. Slightly annoyed this time, I went back again and brought out some more kale. Without much thought I continued packing up the boxes of greens and crates of oranges. The women were still standing there chatting, and I quickly realized that they were trading recipes on how to best cook with kale. That moment, though small, felt like the perfect culmination of the entire semesters worth of work– two people meeting and trading knowledge over food, forming a connection and learning from each other’s’ experiences.
After spending the better part of my four years at Cal learning about environmental politics and food systems, I was excited to put my knowledge to use at a nonprofit working to create and sustain community gardens in Los Angeles (LA). The LA Community Garden Council (LACGC) is a very small nonprofit run by a handful of paid employees with support from a wider network of local board members with ties to various organizations such as the LA Food Policy Council. I worked with Julie, the executive director, Diana, the executive assistant, Al, the outreach director, and my fellow intern, Arissa. LACGC manages forty community gardens in LA and consults with more than 125 community gardens in the LA county. Many of the gardens they manage started out as abandoned concrete lots. With the help of LACGC, local residents worked to convert these plots into gardens where communities of diverse backgrounds come together under the LA sunshine to bond over their mutual love of gardening and grow nutritious and accessible food. During my internship, I learned about individual community gardens and the things that make them unique, but I also learned about the struggles these gardens will encounter in the face of the proposed LADWP water rate hike.
Over the course of three years at the Berkeley Student Collective, from storefront all the way to director, I’ve witness its growth and change in structure, operation, and membership. Initially, I wanted to investigate questions like what do customers look for in store, how does our product selection reflect that, and is there a discrepancy between who we think we’re serving and who we are actually serving? However, I quickly realized that there is no usable data that I could build my research on. Thus, my project changed from investigating the interaction between our customers and products to identifying who are the people who frequent BSFC.
The Food Pantry is relatively new to the university and there are still many that do not know about it. I personally did not know about it until my second semester of my third year even though it was located in the basement of my workplace, which I have been working for almost a year. The Food Pantry is a collection of humble efforts and altruistic and kind students who volunteer their own time and efforts to help others.
The Food Pantry also provides food at no cost for students who are food insecure. Once I got involved with the Food Pantry, I was given a project to lead and at the beginning, I was extremely cautious and overwhelmed by the amount of pressure. Yet, what I learned was that if you have the inspiration and the effort, just jump right in and everything will work out fine and beautifully.