California Benefits from a New UC Global Food Initiative

Janet Napolitano, president of the University of California system, announces a new kind of Food CORPS focused on healthier ways to grow and distribute food

Buddha’s Hand is one of the more than 900 citrus varieties in UCR’s Citrus Variety Collection.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. ( – More than a century of agricultural research at UC Riverside has helped feed the human population.

When a pest invades California and starts killing important crops, it is Riverside scientists who find the natural enemy, raise it and release it, in concert with the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

When far flung countries are fighting drought and flood, crops developed in Riverside can withstand the weather.

A campus community garden keeps UCR students connected to the land, and provides locally grown fruits and vegetables for students and others. And every piece of citrus in a California supermarket has a connection back to the campus, because Riverside hosts the budwood and genetic material for citrus growers around the world.

“Keep in mind, the issue of food is not just about what we eat,” said UC President Janet Napolitano. “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.”

On July 1, Napolitano promised a laser focus from the 10-campus University of California on a new UC Global Food Initiative, an issue with global implications.

The campuses in Riverside, Berkeley and Davis serve as a hub for Agricultural and Natural Resources, the University of California applied science that has advised and informed California’s growers for a century. But each of the 10 campuses, as well as the national laboratories, have a piece of the food puzzle.

“This initiative will help us address food security issues on our own campus, in our community and across the world,” said Peggy Mauk, a cooperative extension specialist who is director of UC Riverside’s Agricultural Operations, which covers 440 acres on campus, and another 500 acres in the Coachella Valley. She has heard growers ask for new certificate programs and an agribusiness degree. She is working to provide UCR grown crops to campus restaurants as well as schools in the Riverside Unified School Districts and local food banks.

“Our research has been going on for generations, but what this initiative does is ask us to knit it all up with the local community, local restaurants, even our local students. It’s totally doable in my opinion, given some time and some resources and some good partnerships,” Mauk said.

One of the tensions of the UC Global Food Initiative is that food means a lot of things to a lot of people, from growing organic greens in the backyard to large industrial production of soy and corn and beef shipped to the world.

“People seem to be so afraid of GMO foods,” Mauk said, “but on an industrial scale operation, the alternative to GMO crops is sometimes heavy pesticide use to kill corn earworm or cotton bollworm.”

A lecture series is one part of the UC Global Food Initiative, which will serve as a place to hear from a variety of different perspectives about how to increase the sustainability and health of the food supply. “The UC is a place to have that debate,” Mauk said.

The UC Global Food Initiative grows out of a commitment by Napolitano and the 10 UC campus chancellors to work collectively to intensify and expand the efforts of the world’s premier public research university to support healthy eating, sustainable agriculture and food security.

The initiative’s reach, Napolitano said, will be both external and internal – on campuses, among faculty and students, in research labs and in communities through UC outreach. It will build on efforts already under way. It will identify best practices and share them widely within UC, California, and, ultimately, the nation and the world.

Napolitano announced, as one of her first actions, the funding of three $2,500 President’s Global Food Initiative Student Fellowships to be awarded on each campus to undergraduate or graduate students. The fellowships will fund student research projects or internships.

Public research universities are uniquely positioned to tackle audacious global challenges, Napolitano said in a keynote speech to the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. She highlighted UC’s new Global Food Initiative and cited examples from Berkeley Lab (Darfur stove), UC Davis and UC Riverside (flood-tolerant rice), and UC Santa Cruz (farm and garden). Read more:

Media Contact

Tel: (951) 827-4756

Additional Contacts

Peggy Mauk, director of Agricultural Operations

Joyce Patrona, UCR research licensing officer
Tel: 951-827-2524

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