Food for Climate League (FCL) is a 501c3 nonprofit seeking to identify the most effective ways to communicate around food and climate in order to make sustainable eating inviting and relevant for all people. FCL’s goal is to democratize sustainable eating— to help people feel in control of their health, connected to the community, and empowered to change the world, all through climate-beneficial eating habits. I worked with them as Grant Writing and Brand Development lead, through which I’ve built FCL’s funding and social media strategies, and helped communicate our impact as an organization. FCL is a unique organization because we focus on the ways in which climate-smart eating is tied with people’s core needs of control, community and purpose— we aim to show that sustainable foods nourish both human and planetary well-being, and in doing so, we will drive demand for plant-forward, biodiverse, and nutritious foods.
For the past semester, I’ve worked with Real Good Greens, a small business that was founded in 2020 to increase accessibility to high-quality local produce for families in the Bay Area. Helene, the founder, saw a huge imbalance in supply and demand when restaurants closed in April 2020, leaving farms without any outlets for their bounty. She began curating a weekly box of local fruits and veggies from her favorite local farms and selling them to Bay Area eaters, offering to deliver to doorstep. Since then, she’s coined the phrase ‘Farm to Doorstep’ to describe the company’s mission and has continued to increase the accessibility of locally farmed produce in the Bay Area. Throughout this process, I’ve learned that there is an important balance between producer, distributor, and consumer that can make small farms economically viable for everyone involved. I’m very grateful for the time I’ve been able to spend connecting Bay Area folks with their local farmers and will continue celebrating local food & its dedicated growers in the future. Find out more at www.realgoodgreens.com.
This semester I was able to work with Community Foods Market, an independent and locally-owned grocery store in West Oakland, CA that aims to serve and support the surrounding community. As a marketing and content intern, I was able to highlight the narratives of those who shop at the market and share nutritious meal ideas on their social media platforms. This market only opened in 2019 and was a result of community efforts and engagement in West Oakland. This store is a real-life example of combating the lack of access to food and the inequalities that marginalized communities face.
This semester I had the opportunity to work with Dr. Susana Matias from the department of Nutritional Sciences & Toxicology on a research project. We aimed to find the underlying benefits of green space and gardening exposure for the student community at Berkeley, and more specifically, at Berkeley Student Farms. The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a direct increase in the rates of depression and anxiety in young adults and students, and gardening (one of the few fairly COVID safe activities) could be a mechanism with which to remediate the decrease of mental health that we are continuing to see. I was able to contribute to an extensive literature review as well as the Qualtrics survey that we shared with students at UC Berkeley. While we still have a long way to go in terms of collecting and analyzing data, we are excited to be studying the effects of community gardening on student health and well-being in various ways.
Since 1979, it has been Food for People’s mission is to provide nutritious food to folks throughout Humboldt County. Over the semester, I have had the joy of interning at the Eureka Choice Pantry where I interacted with the community through packaging and distributing food. On top of this, I have been able to expand my design skills by developing flyers that will circulate the community, created pins, and created my first animation for the introduction to their video based culinary lessons.
For my community partnership, I assisted an MDP graduate student with her research project conducting a community food assessment in Geyserville, a small town in Sonoma County. As a Public Health student with a strong interest in food systems, I was really drawn to this project as it aims to help address food insecurity, particularly among the Latinx population in Geyserville. In addition to remote work, I was very lucky to even get the chance to travel to Geyserville and volunteer at a food distribution to connect with community members in a meaningful way. The data that was collected and analyzed in our food assessment will hopefully be used to inform future interventions in Geyserville with the aim of increasing access to fresh produce for those experiencing food insecurity.
This semester, I had the opportunity to do my community partnership with the Berkeley Student Farms (specifically the Student Organic Garden Association). I worked on a community composting project in which we aimed to expand community composting operations at the student gardens. I was responsible for working with a team to regularly create new compost piles and maintain those piles by flipping them weekly. One of the goals of the project was to come up with a more scientific approach to conduct the composting so we tracked the weights of the inputs (food scraps brought by student volunteers, coffee grounds, wood shavings, etc.) going into each pile. Overall, I had a great experience working with the Berkeley Student Farms and overseeing the composting operations! This experience made me realize how valuable a closed-loop system of food production is and how we can minimize our food waste as individuals by composting.
I was interested in learning more about Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and sustainability efforts in a large company, leading me to my partnership with the Corporate Affairs team at Nestlé USA. I worked as a Project Management Intern this Spring, primarily tracking the US application and adherence to a set of commitments entitled the Creating Shared Value commitments, released every year by Nestlé Global in Switzerland. I had the chance to interview commitment owners and stakeholders across departments and operating companies, diving deeper into the topics of sustainable sourcing, environmental practices, net-zero emissions, and nutrition, health, & wellness. Ultimately, I produced an internal tracker with the US commitment updates for 2020.
This semester, volunteering at Berkeley Student Farms (BSF) became a peaceful part of my week. BSF is a coalition of seven campus garden spaces, all student-run. I spent most of my hours weeding, harvesting and planting at the Student Organic Garden on Northside. I loved getting to spend time with other students in-person, masked and six feet apart. The work felt significant to me, knowing that the produce harvested was going to the campus food pantry. I also helped design a few pages for the garden cookbook, featuring food grown in the garden. It was eye-opening to be part of an organization that ran horizontally — I always felt there was space for me and my ideas, and I appreciated this open structure.
Leah’s Pantry is a non-profit organization that focuses on providing trauma-informed nutrition education. Its mission is to improve the health, wellness, and resilience of communities. In particular, the team members at Leah’s Pantry formulate their programs and resources to target low-income communities that have historically been underserved. For my internship, I provided support to the organization’s Food Smarts for Waste Reduction Program by co-facilitating various classes covered in the program’s curriculum. Some topics in the Food Smarts curriculum include food code dates (i.e. how to decipher them), food storage, composting, healthy eating, and zero-waste cooking. I also assisted with the maintenance and management of the organization’s eatfresh.org website. In partnership with CalFresh, the site offers a variety of easy-to-make, healthy, and budget-friendly recipes. Overall, Leah’s Pantry seeks to nourish communities and promote a healthy and equitable food system.
My community partner was the Center for Good Food Purchasing- an organization that helps public institutions implement values based food procurement with standards for local economies, health, valued workforce, animal welfare, and environmental sustainability. As the Policy and Programs Research Intern I supported the Director of Institutional Impact in building resources to support program participants in identifying model policies and best practices around values-based purchasing. My work will contribute to an “Action Planning Toolkit” that will be provided to the Center’s partner institutions to help them meet their goals more efficiently. In the course of my time with the center, I learned all about the state of food procurement in the US, possibilities for betterment, and key players/organizations in the fight for a more just, equitable, and sustainable food system. I’m excited to take what I learned into my future career!
For the Food Systems Minor Capstone course, I volunteered as a research assistant under the Center for Environmental Research and Children’s Health (CERCH) at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health, which seeks to understand and mitigate environmental threats to children and community health. I contributed to manuscript preparation and data analysis for the Healthy Children and Environments Study (HCES), which quantifies pesticide exposure among young children in California child care facilities and applies integrated pest management to reduce pesticide use. Children are at critical stages of development and thus disproportionately susceptible to adverse health risks associated with pesticide exposure. Agriculture accounts for almost 90% of pesticides in the US, with commercial, industry, home, and garden use making up the remaining 10%. My research mentors are incredibly passionate and willing to teach—I’m excited to apply my skills in a clinical research setting and continue understanding how agri-food systems manifest as social determinants of health.
I worked with Back to the Roots an organic home gardening product company founded by two Cal alumni, Nikhil Arora and Alejandro Velez. BTTR produces at home grow kits for plants such as herbs, mushrooms, and certain vegetables, and packet seeds for a wide range of flowers, plants, herbs, fruits, and veggies. Back to the Roots actually only exists because of an anecdote a Berkeley professor mentioned about the possibility to grow mushrooms out of coffee grinds. From there, Back to the Roots sprouted and has grown ever since!
The internship that I did this semester is with my organization on campus named the Food Association at Berkeley. Our main goal is to gather like-minded individuals who are passionate about food. Our three main pillars are education, initiative, and social space. We wanted to have an inclusive organization on campus that aims to build a deeper understanding of food and its systems. We made this possible by inviting professionals, business owners, and professors in the food industry to help us educate ourselves about food and its systems. We did 3 pro-bono consulting throughout the year to help out small businesses who are struggling as part of our initiative. Lastly, we had some social events that helped our members gain connections in an online setting that helped them get through these hard times.
I did a collaboration with Oakland Unified School District to help construct an oral history for the gardens at the various schools. Many of these gardens were actually quite large and contributed quite a bit to local food production, but there has been little written material describing them in the past. By writing narratives about them, it helps to record the histories of the schools but also allows us to spread the benefits of school gardens (which include climate change mitigation, community integration, and connecting students with nature) around, and thus encourage other schools to create their own garden programs. Something I would like to see in the long term is for food production to be controlled largely by independent small farmers and gardeners, and I feel that this project is a good start for that.
Over the past few months, I have been collaborating with Chapul, a cricket powder pioneer based in Oregon. I worked with Pat Crowley, the founder and CEO of Chapul who has appeared on both Shark Tank and TEDx , and originally inspired my love for edible insects. Needless to say, this was an unparalleled opportunity to learn about the industry directly from my role model within it. I focused mainly on SMS and email marketing, building campaigns and familiarizing myself with different provider platforms and marketing strategies. As our world population grows and resources dwindle, we will have to find a protein sourcing alternative to intensive meat production. Many experts have pointed towards entomophagy, or humans eating insects, as a potential solution, and it is already done in 80% of countries! Having this experience at Chapul has taught me the most effective ways to promote this practice in mainstream, Western markets, and given me a clear idea of the industry’s exciting future.
This semester I partnered with Berkeley Unified School District and helped maintained the student gardens used for their nutrition and gardening program. I believe that connecting people to their food, starting at such a young age, leads to healthier and more sustainable generations. Its not everywhere kids have the opportunity to connect with the Earth and get their hands dirty, and it is so important to building an appreciation for the world around you. The biggest thing I learned and want to take with me into my career in the agri-food system would be to maintain the simple sense of wonder and curiosity that children have. Always ask questions and always want to learn new things!
Throughout my time as a digital organizing intern at Food & Water Watch, I have worked on a number of projects ranging from making google sheets of information on legislature, to reviewing informational articles for publication. I was also able to do a number of outreach projects that worked to gain momentum for mega-dairy moratoriums in Oregon. These projects served as fuel for the many initiatives that Food & Water Watch runs under its factory farming team, which works to establish moratoriums in the hope of getting factory farms banned nationwide. Although some states vary in scale for their concentration of factory farms, this work is thought to benefit the food system nationally, and perhaps globally in the future and I will take pride in my work of holding political players accountable for the years to come. Below is a clip from an article that I edited and gave feedback on to help Food & Water Watch better reach their target audience.
As part of my ESPM 197 internship this semester, I worked with a Master of Development Practice student along with an undergraduate student at UC Berkeley on a project called Geyserville Kitchen Commons to increase food access in a small, rural town called Geyserville, CA. We were able to conduct a Community Food Assessment (CFA) to understand the food system in Geyserville by surveying residents and conducting interviews with experts in the community. Conducting a CFA allowed me to discover the incredible strengths and assets of Geyserville that can be leveraged to increase food access in the area. I learned that every community has its own unique strengths if you take the time to get to know the community and the people within it. From conducting research to developing survey instruments to interviewing community experts, I have been able to develop key transferrable skills that I hope to take with me to my future career. My involvement in this project has validated my passions in public health and food security, and I hope to continue to be involved in work that advocates for food equity in every community.
This semester I had the opportunity to intern for Once Upon a Farm, a sustainable and organic children’s food company based in Berkeley, CA. As a marketing intern, I was fortunate to work on a number of projects to increase their e-commerce sales and understand the operations of a company in the food industry. During my internship, I was able to witness the company undergo a brand refresh and help with the launch of their new website. Additionally, I spent time with their Marketing & Sustainability Coordinator (a UC Berkeley alum!) working on Once Upon a Farm’s sustainability reporting processes. Through the internship I learned how the company sources their ingredients, packages their products and distributes them to customers and grocery stores. I was interested in learning about the product packaging as the company looks into options to increase its plastic pouches recycling efforts.
Only seven states have required that employers pay tipped service workers a full minimum wage, and One Fair Wage (OFW) is trying to change that. They organize service workers across the country and think of innovative ways to pressure the federal government and service industries into paying all workers not just a full minimum wage but a fair wage. For example, the California campaign is looking to start a CA Food Service Worker Cooperative to enable a fairer fight against the unfair policies lobbied for by the National Restaurant Association and perpetuated by larger corporations in the foodservice industry. Through my community partnership with the OFW California campaign, I explored various skills through tasks that will hopefully advance the cause for fairer wages. For example, I helped with research and data entry related to grants and restaurant spaces for the co-op. I also developed my understanding of digital advocacy by creating infographics and memes. I even attended an event where a U.S. House Representative was my server for an hour. However, the most meaningful part of my community partnership was solidifying my stance and potentially helping others realize that all workers, especially those in the food and service industries, deserve a living wage.
Pesticide Action Network (PAN) North America is part of a global network of over 600 NGOs, institutions, and individuals in over 90 counties. Together, they work to replace the use of highly hazardous pesticides with ecologically sound and socially just alternatives within a rights-based approach that prioritizes agroecology, food sovereignty, and food justice. As an intern, I was a member of the PAN International Agroecology Workgroup, where I supported many projects, including planning and co-hosting an international webinar, Agroecology: Farmers’ Pathways to Liberation from Pesticides. Hearing firsthand from farmers about their successful transitions from conventional pesticide use to agroecological practices was inspiring and encouraging, demonstrating a way forward with pesticide-free production. With the Grassroots Science Hub, I conducted a literature review about the impacts of climate change on agricultural insect pests which will soon be published as an issue brief and blog. Working with the PAN team has been an incredible experience and I will be continuing as a Science Fellow post-graduation, working alongside amazing individuals from around the world working toward a safer, healthier, more just food system by eliminating the use of highly hazardous pesticides in agriculture.
Produced by Sofia Sanchez Pillot Saavedra Fall 2018
The project I worked on for the Food Systems Capstone Course was a short 10-minute film in collaboration with the FRESH food pantry at Chabot College. When I was a student at Chabot Community College, I came across a class called Passion and Purpose, which focused on student’s passions and ways to leverage that passion into initiatives and projects. In my time at Chabot, I realized I was passionate about the environment, food issues and the wider community of Hayward, and found that a Food pantry was a resource highly needed on campus. With a group of students, faculty and staff at Chabot, the FRESH food pantry came to fruition and by the time I transferred to UC Berkeley, the project had taken off with its first pop-up event in May of 2017. To this day, the pantry has served over 7000 people. FRESH has also started distributing clothing and is planning on expanding to hygiene products as well as school materials. The energy around this project was incredibly humbling, and it left me with the urge to document it into a short film that could be shared to raise awareness and inspire anyone interested in issues surrounding food insecurity and student collaboration.
My time at Terramino was quite a journey that I am extremely blessed to have gone through. I was able to take a peek at a startup company that was started by UC Berkeley alumni and how their process of starting a company as long as their hiring component took place. When I joined Terramino, their company was still relatively new just as their were moving from a collaborative space with other companies to their own space in San Leandro. I was excited to be there as they were beginning their journey on their own and I was more than willing to help with anything they needed.
For the food systems capstone course project, I collaborated with Mothers to Mothers, an organization focused on defining and obtaining postpartum justice for parents of all races, genders, cultures, and identities. The group has a website used for discussing their ideas, concept, events, classroom lectures, resources, and media outreach. I played a part in redesigning and offering new resources and updates to that website so visitors would have a fresh look the project based on current semester goals.
My community engagement project involved work with DoorDash in order to launch a pilot program, Kitchens Without Borders, that would aid immigrant and refugee restaurant owners to provide customers with free delivery. The idea for the program was born in an internal hackathon at DoorDash and the company decided to include it in their corporate social responsibility initiatives (CSR). Essentially, the program would partner with local non-profits working with immigrants and refugees in the food system. Together with corporate funds, these partnerships would enable DoorDash to pay the delivery fee for selected participating merchants, which, according to internal data,boosts sales from 50-200 percent. When I was contacted to work with them on launching this program, I knew I had to be a part of it.
The overarching theme that has permeated my internship this semester has been that of connection. I have spent almost three months working and learning at the UC Gill Tract Community Farm in Albany, California. Not only have I learned actual skills and techniques for farming on an urban farm, but I have also learned a lot about myself, and my food system. Far too often in today’s society, we have no idea where our food comes from, who grows and harvests it, and how it gets to us… Most of us are completely disconnected from our food system. Prior to my internship at Gill Tract, I too was rather disconnected from the food system.
We lie deeply embedded in a consumerist society which continues to serve injustices on every plate. People throughout the system– from producer to consumer– are treated unfairly by the capitalist marketplace. Institutionally, sustainable production practices are disincentivized, and for a significant group of people, a healthy diet is unattainable. From the classroom, I have learned that the modern food system creates inequity and does not account for the disparities it creates. However, I have found that the Berkeley Farmers’ Markets are a unique hiding place within this system for a range of consumers who seek and support healthy, local food, and for producers who grow with a holistic mindset.
As farms across the US continue industrializing and consolidating, populations of small farmers face drastic declines. Their farming knowledge, which tends to be much more sustainable and ecologically sound, disappears with them. This semester I worked with First Generation Farmers (FGF), an organization based on a small farm in Brentwood, California, which actively helps foster the next generation of farmers by recruiting new farmers and instructing them in organic and agroecological methods.
As I conclude my semester interning with the Berkeley Unified Gardening and Cooking Program, I am sad to see it ending. I’ve loved being in the world of elementary school, especially in the garden; it’s been wonderful to forget the stresses of being a full time UC Berkeley student in favor of hunting down cabbage eating inchworms, dressing up as a scarecrow to walk in the Halloween parade, and getting my hands in the dirt with twenty or so willing participants at a time. My Mondays and Wednesdays the past four months have been sweetened by kids’ laughter, monarch butterflies, and the feet stomping excitement that comes with the announcement of that week’s “Garden Snack.”
In the summer, my project consisted of researching and developing a rooftop garden that intersects urban agriculture practices with technological systems (and other engineering/design aspects). The La Loma Rooftop Garden will increase accessibility and production of healthy foods, while providing a place for meditation and yoga. This summer, I worked behind the scenes, learning about engineering systems for rooftop food production. I will start doing more construction within the next couple weeks with the Hispanic Engineers and Scientists (HES) team. The objectives for the Fall 2018 are to educate and provide HES active members with research and hands-on experiences in team-oriented projects.
This summer, I had the pleasure of conducting food systems research at the Nutrition Policy Institute (NPI) in Berkeley, California. Housed within the University of California’s Division of Agriculture and National Resources, NPI is an organization that conducts and evaluates research on the influence of nutrition on public health. This post describes some of the major projects I have been working on over the past months.
Agricultural research and production is commonly grounded in one scientific knowledge base, the Western. However, there are other valid forms of knowledge in the world offering salient techniques and perspectives. Indigenous science (IS), the transmission of ecological knowledge in Indigenous communities across generations, is example of another form of knowledge that should be honored and looked to for answers for present day agricultural issues.
If we want all students to reach the top of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (self-actualization), how can we expect them to achieve this without meeting the lowest level of the hierarchy (basic physiological needs)? In California, 20 percent of K-12 students are in poverty and 21 percent are food insecure. I have been an education policy nerd for years; in high school, I loved immersing myself in student government, leadership roles in my school district, and working with statewide educational non-profits. Through my food systems engagement project, I wanted to channel my longtime passion for education with my newfound passion for food justice. I delved into studying what programs and policies exist to ensure a students’ access to food with support from the Berkeley Food Institute.
“The future of protein is fungi”… is Terramino Foods’ catchphrase. They’re proving it true. Terramino’s goal is to create a sustainable alternative to seafood using a nutrient-dense and texturally comparable fungi. Why? Because classic seafood production is plagued by a host of environmental problems.
The students of Experiential Learning through Food Systems do impactful and thought-provoking work. This semester, I had the honor of working on a project that will help share their stories and hopefully inspire others. The most digestible way to do this was as a series of short videos.
I wanted this garden to speak to the importance of issues surrounding homelessness, food insecurity, urban green space, and sustainable agriculture. I am incredibly proud of the efforts of everyone of People’s Park and my friends who came out to volunteer; this project could not have come to fruition without them. I was inspired by the original movement in the 60s to build a park by just the will and labor of the community, and hoped to emulate the values of past activists in my project. In turn, I hope that my garden inspires people to see the value and beauty of the park and to advocate for its protection as it faces threats of destruction once again.
This semester I interned with Berkeley Unified School District at Malcolm X Elementary in the school garden. Everyday that I went into the garden, I got showered with children, plants, and food. The entire experience was so absolutely positive and I want to share one of my final days in the garden with you. One of my personal goals for this project was to effectively communicate complex science in a simple manner to young students. Upon discussing this with the garden teacher Rivka, she suggested that I design a lesson plan about leguminous nitrogen fixation. The third graders planted a crop of fava beans in the fall, so this felt like the perfect opportunity to connect with that experience and talk about soil health.
My semester’s journey with food has shown me ways I can continue creating positive impacts for the larger campus community. In the recent months, I have been facilitating a student-lead food justice class at UC Berkeley as well as working as an intern for the Basic Needs Security Team. Working on two different projects has exposed me to levels in the food systems I have never seen before. In seeing the interconnected parts of the campus foodways first-hand, my gratitude for the volunteers, workers, and families involved in this truly world-wide network grew stronger. Most importantly, this semester’s journey with food has taught me about the power of community and how our connection to each other is the only way we can combat the oppressive food systems we live in today.
Middle school is an interesting age, where students are discovering themselves and their love of food systems. Although they may not express that love directly, having a Garden and Nutrition Program to give access to essential information at such a formative age is necessary and important. Working at Longfellow Middle School was an amazing experience. This unique internship stems from a partnership between the Berkeley Food Institute and the Berkeley Unified School District to connect UC Berkeley students to intern for either garden based learning, nutrition instruction, or both, as was my case in elementary and middle schools. The teacher that I worked with, Ellen McClure, was in charge of both the school’s gardens and teaching the nutrition classes, which gave our program a nice balance to bring in some of the fruits, vegetables, and herbs that we grew into the classroom to incorporate into our recipes.
Terramino Foods is a new startup company developing a fish-free alternative to seafood made from fungi. Founders Kim and Josh, both recent graduates of UC Berkeley, have invented a fermentation-based process for transforming fungi into a product that mimics the taste and texture of fish. So far, the company has developed a convincing salmon burger, is working on a salmon fillet, and intends to expand to other types of seafood in the future. Terramino products not only have the flavor and mouthfeel of fish, but are also nutritionally comparable. The fungi used is rich in bioavailable proteins and packed with Omega-3 fatty acids. However, unlike real fish, producing fungi requires a small fraction of the resources used for fishing or aquaculture. Kim and Josh hope that their company can reduce the environmental burden of the seafood industry by offering a fish alternative that is more sustainable and affordable, while also being delicious enough to satisfy the cravings of seafood lovers.
When I chose to add a minor in food systems to my degree in Society and Environment, I thought it would be a great way to stay as closely connected to the nutritional studies field as I could. Initially, I didn’t think farming and food justice were really areas of study I would be interested in, since most of my classes were focused on nutrition in developing countries and human food practices, but I soon learned otherwise. Seeing as this minor required a certain amount of hours of work in the food systems field, I immediately began to think of how I could connect it with nutritional and scientific studies. Having heard a lot about research work opportunities throughout my time in academia, I was hoping to gain skills and a deeper understanding of what it really means to participate in such research studies. As some of you are surely familiar, finding and securing an opportunity to be part of research projects can be very challenging, and in my particular case, it took a lot of effort and time to land one.
The undergraduate Public Health program at U.C. Berkeley stresses that one’s environment is central to their health. Since being introduced to this concept, I’ve been eager to understand the interaction between place, resource availability, and the policies that make up the surrounding environment with the health of different members of a community. The field of public health argues that some members of a population are disproportionately affected by certain health outcomes, not because of innate differences between groups of people, but rather because of the underlying social determinants of health. The social determinants of health are the physical, economic, and social conditions in the environment in which people live, work, and play that affect health, such as job opportunities, residential segregation, public safety, access to quality education, and public transportation. Groups with particular vulnerability to poor health outcomes include the economically disadvantaged, racial and ethnic minorities, pregnant women, children, the elderly, the immunocompromised, and those with chronic health conditions. Major goals in public health focus on closing the gaps in access to resources and reducing the unfair and avoidable health disparities between groups of people, which are defined as health inequities. Programs that work towards eliminating these differences ensure that every member of a community has the same potential to reach their optimal level of health.
For my community engagement project, I decided to to take on being a garden intern through the Berkeley Unified School District. I worked at Thousand Oaks Elementary School, and then halfway through I started to also intern at Oxford Elementary as well. When I first began working at Thousand Oaks, I thought to myself not only what I would get out of this experience, but also what positive impact I could leave with these students. With those thoughts, I didn’t know what my duties would actually include while being an intern.
Over the course of this semester, I had the privilege to intern with the nation’s oldest distributor of certified organic fruits and vegetables based in San Francisco, Veritable Vegetable (VV). VV distributes high quality organic produce to independent cooperatives, retailers, restaurants, schools, corporate campuses, and wholesalers. I worked under the Marketing Communications Manager at the company and assisted with tasks that dealt with promotion of the business and sales of products and services. My time at VV however was not limited to these tasks as I also had the opportunity to sit it on company meetings, participate in tours and volunteer events, and gain exposure to the many different departments of the company. While working at the company, I had the chance to learn more about the distribution side of the food system. The work that VV partakes in can be seen as the invisible efforts that take place in the food system. These distribution labors are hardly ever directly seen, making the efforts less thought of by customers as they purchase and consume produce. Interning at VV helped me better understand and appreciate the food distribution sector of the food system.
This spring I interned at Berkeley Unified Public School District’s Gardening and Cooking Program. I worked in the Cooking & Nutrition curriculum, which takes the form of after-school sessions; one part nutrition lesson, one part healthy hands-on cooking. I split my time between John Muir Elementary and Thousand Oaks Elementary, with kindergarten through third grade classes. After four months of “Can you go wash your hands again?” and, “Don’t yuck my yum,” here is the biggest lesson I have learned: Kids are powerful.
After spending a majority of my undergraduate career heavily involved in food systems work at both Berkeley and Hawai’i, it was a great pleasure to end my senior year weaving together and reflecting on my experiences through the Food Systems Capstone course. I took on a research assistant position in the Diversified Farming Systems Lab this past fall, working with Aidee Guzman, an ESPM PhD student conducting socio-ecological work in the Fresno area, and was lucky enough to be able to continue to do more work with Aidee this spring for my capstone project. The Diversified Farming Systems Lab commonly works on plant- pollinator interactions at the local and landscape level under the purview of Dr. Claire Kremen.
In the United States today, nearly 50% of all American adults have one or more diet-related chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease.¹ People of color and low-income status make up a majority of this population due to a lack of access to healthy foods.³ Our current food policies pave the way for large-scale, pesticide-infused, fossil-fuel guzzling monoculture farms, factories, and corporations to thrive financially, while their consumers’ health plummets due to environmental and human health hazards. In addition, our industrialized food system illuminates the deeper racial and class-based structural inequalities that consume United States culture. In California alone, 4.9 million people face food insecurity, despite the state producing nearly 50% of the entire nation’s fruits and vegetables. 20.6% of California residents are poverty-stricken, the highest rate of poverty in the nation, and 24.2% of California adults are obese.² Food insecurity and obesity are often associated due to lack of access to fresh, healthy, and affordable foods, circling back to the overarching problem of inadequate food policies. This is a problem of both access and affordability; the former pertaining to inequalities in the distribution of grocery stores providing healthy food, and the latter in regards to governmental subsidies disproportionately given to corporate growers and food manufacturing companies. And this is where Fresh Approach comes in!
This semester I have been helping manage a research plot at the Oxford Tract with a group of undergraduate and graduate students, as well as UC Berkeley faculty. The research plot is being used to examine the effects of different urban farm soil management techniques, specifically no-till farming versus till farming and the utilization of cover crops versus no cover crops on soil characteristics and crop yield. The goal of the study is to produce tangible research results in a form that is accessible and useful to urban farmers, especially those residing in the East Bay.
For my community engagement project for the Food Systems Minor Capstone, I was a Marketing Intern for Back to the Roots (BTTR), a small company based in Oakland, CA that makes organic indoor gardening kits and is on a mission to reconnect people back to the food they eat through making it easy to grow themselves. Although the company is small, they have national distribution at some of the largest retailers including Target, The Home Depot, Whole Foods, and Amazon.