UC Riverside’s Food Expertise on Display in 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

By Kris Lovekin on July 1, 2014

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

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (www.ucr.edu) – 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.”

Today, Napolitano promised a laser focus from the 10-campus University of California on a new UC Global Food Initiative, an issue with global implications. Among those who will join Napolitano for the 5 p.m. announcement in Los Angeles are Peggy Mauk, a cooperative extension specialist who is director of UC Riverside’s Agricultural Operations; and Fortino Morales, a recent UCR graduate who is now director of UC Riverside’s community garden project.

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.

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.