UC Food Blog
Sustainability. Food justice. Research to action. These were the themes discussed April 13–14, 2018, as emerging food leaders throughout the UC system gathered in San Diego for a tour titled “The Rooted University: Bridging food system changemaking on and off campus.”
The trip brought together nearly two dozen 2018 Global Food Initiative Fellows, all of whom are working on projects that advance the mission of the UC-wide Global Food Initiative. This strategic initiative was started in 2014 by UC President Janet Napolitano to align the university's research to develop and export solutions — throughout California, the United States and the world — for food security, health and sustainability. The initiative funds student-generated research, related projects or internships that focus on food issues. All 10 UC campuses, plus UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, participate in the program.
“We need to start thinking of the interconnectedness of our research, and begin to implement place-based solutions that take into account the environment, food-security, and sustainability,” said UC San Diego professor Keith Pezzoli as he welcomed the GFI fellows. Pezzoli, who leads the UC San Diego Bioregional Center for Sustainability Science, Planning and Design, hosted the GFI fellows for the weekend. Pezzoli and his team led the fellows to multiple campus and community-based projects that are implementing collaborative, innovative solutions that advance food security, environmental sustainability and economic prosperity. GFI fellows were tasked to think of their projects critically and use the trip to gather ideas and inspiration for their own projects and in their work as future food leaders.
This year's GFI Fellows are working on projects that range from addressing food security and basic needs on UC campuses, to capturing the culture of eating through film, and from efforts to connect water salinity to crop yield, to creating energy-generating agricultural covers.
The trip started with tours of UCSD-based projects that implement research and student and civic engagement to create closed-loop food systems and create opportunities for innovation. Ellie's Garden, located in between UCSD campus dormitories, exemplifies sustainable gardening practices. The garden, which composts food waste from on-campus restaurants, was established to utilize the space in between dormitories in a more efficient way.
“By using food waste from campus restaurants to create compost that then helps develop fresh food for students, this garden is taking the food system into the entire campus. With this example, we're really walking the talk on campus,” Pezzoli said.
Triton Food Pantry
The GFI fellows then visited the Triton Food Pantry, which was established in 2015 following the launch of the Global Food Initiative. The pantry provides UCSD students with greater access to healthy foods, including grains, proteins, and fresh fruits and vegetables. The pantry also helps to enroll students into CalFresh, a federally funded program (formerly known as "food stamps") that provides cash aid to low-income individuals who need food assistance. On average, Triton Food Pantry serves 600 students per week. In the 2016-2017 academic year, 10,000 student visits were logged overall.
Roger's Community Garden
Fellows then headed to Roger's Community Garden, a student-run garden that offers land to students, staff, faculty and alumni to grow herbs, flowers, fruits and vegetables and conduct student-led research. With projects ranging from hydroponics, aeroponics, and anaerobic digestion, the UCSD students who work in the garden come from different majors and different backgrounds, but are united in their love for food and gardening.
“The garden allows us to take scientific innovation and reduce it down to something that is scalable and easy,” said a UCSD student involved in Roger's Garden.
Dinner with UC Agriculture and Natural Resources - advising California for 150 years
The first day of the trip ended with a presentation by and dinner with advisors from UC's Agricultural and Natural Resources. Ramiro E. Lobo, small farm and agricultural economics advisor for UC Cooperative Extension in San Diego County, gave the GFI fellows basic information about the farming landscape in San Diego County and introduced the five UC ANR Strategic Initiatives. Lobo, who specializes in agricultural economics and marketing, talked about the challenges of farming in San Diego and the future of agricultural economics.
“San Diego,” Lobo said, “has the one of the highest prices of agricultural water in the world. The majority of our farms are small, specialty crop farms. So now, many growers and shutting off the water and letting their land dry up.”
In order to combat these issues and drive sales, Ramiro helps farmers market their products and share their stories.
“We're moving towards a ‘value-based' model of marketing,” said Lobo. “I help farmers figure out what their personal farming stories are and help share those stories with the public, a model that's really helping to drive sales.”
Fellows then enjoyed dinner with ANR advisors from throughout Southern California and discussed student-led topics related to food security, water quality, federal food programs and research ethics. With areas of work ranging from water quality to crop science, and from federal food programs to agricultural tourism, conversations were rich and varied as ANR advisors answered students' questions and shared their expertise.
“It was so interesting to hear the ANR advisors' perspectives on their particular issues. Also, I was really inspired by the wide range of expertise and backgrounds present among the advisors. Each one brings their own unique perspective to the work, and I enjoyed learning how each of their focus areas connected,” said GFI Fellow Mackenzie Feldman, an undergraduate student at UC Berkeley.
Ocean View Growing Grounds
The second day of the trip kicked off with a tour of the Ocean View Growing Grounds (OVGG), a project of the Global Action Research Center that operates on a 20,000-square-foot property in southeastern San Diego. In partnership with UC San Diego and the Global Food Initiative, the OVGG has established a community garden, two food forests and a Learning/Action Research Center developed with local neighborhood residents. The OVGG also hosts the Neighborhood Food Network, a group of residents interested in growing and distributing food. Through this network, San Diego residents build dynamic neighborhood hubs that revolve around increasing access to fresh fruits and vegetables.
Jacobs Center and Kitchens for Good
Fellows then enjoyed lunch with Kitchens for Good, a nonprofit catering service that aims to break the cycles of food waste, poverty and hunger through innovative programs in workforce training, healthy food production and social enterprise. Kitchens for Good is located within the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation, a “creative catalyst and incubator” that partners with residents, local leaders and organizations, as well as regional and national investors, to revitalize southeastern San Diego, a culturally diverse yet under-served area that is prime for investment and transformation.
“We don't just want to teach residents how to fish, we want to teach residents how to buy the lake that the fish swim in,” said Bennett Peji, Jacobs Center's senior director of marketing and community affairs.
Since its inception, the organization has revitalized a nearby creek, built a metro station with the second-highest amount of traffic in the county, constructed a low-income apartment complex and built a shopping mall that includes the first full-service grocery store in the community. In a community where the high school has a 50 percent dropout rate, the Jacobs Center has had a transformational impact.
“After this trip, I am full of new ideas, energy and confidence that can I make a difference. I now know I need to find the right partners and keep believing that solutions to food justice and environmental sustainability are possible,” said Holly Mayton, GFI Fellow and PhD student at UC Riverside. “My thoughts and ideas are really falling into place, and I am creating a new framework for action and results.”
The studies focus on four table grape varieties. There are two early maturing varieties, Flame Seedless and Sheegene-21, that begin harvest in July, one mid-season maturing, Scarlet Royal, and one late maturing, Autumn King, which begins harvest in October. The studies estimate the cost of establishing a table grape vineyard and producing fresh market table grapes.
“Labor costs are expected to rise with reduced labor availability, increases in minimum wage rates and new overtime rules that went into effect in 2018,” said Ashraf El-kereamy, UCCE viticulture advisor in Kern County and co-author of the cost studies.
“We included detailed costs for specialized hand labor of certain cultural and harvest operations.”
“The new California minimum wage law will gradually decrease the number of hours employees can work on a daily and weekly basis before overtime wages are required. There are additional stipulations for overtime wages and scheduling of work that are part of the new law,” said Daniel Sumner, director of the Agricultural Issues Center.
Input and reviews were provided by UC ANR Cooperative Extension farm advisors, specialists, grower cooperators, California Table Grape Commission and other agricultural associates. The authors describe the assumptions used to identify current costs for table grape establishment and production, material inputs, cash and non-cash overhead. A ranging analysis table shows profits over a range of prices and yields. Other tables show the monthly cash costs, the costs and returns per acre, hourly equipment costs, and the whole farm annual equipment, investment and business overhead costs.
- “2018 - Sample Costs to Establish and Produce Table Grapes in the Southern San Joaquin Valley – Flame Seedless, Early Maturing”
- “2018 - Sample Costs to Establish and Produce Table Grapes in the Southern San Joaquin Valley – Sheegene-21 (Ivory™), Early Maturing”
- “2018 - Sample Costs to Establish and Produce Table Grapes in the Southern San Joaquin Valley – Scarlet Royal, Mid-season Maturing”
- “2018 - Sample Costs to Establish and Produce Table Grapes in the Southern San Joaquin Valley – Autumn King, Late Maturing”
All four table grape studies can be downloaded from the UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics website at http://coststudies.ucdavis.edu. Sample cost of production studies for many other commodities are also available at the website.
For information about local table grape production, contact UC Cooperative Extension viticulture specialist Matthew Fidelibus at firstname.lastname@example.org, UCCE viticulture advisor Ashraf El-kereamy in Kern County at email@example.com, UCCE entomology advisor David Haviland in Kern County at firstname.lastname@example.org, UCCE weed advisor Kurt Hembree in Fresno County at email@example.com, or UCCE viticulture advisor George Zhuang in Fresno County at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Shoppers purchasing fruits and vegetables in stores located in low-income neighborhoods in California may pay more for those fruits and vegetables than shoppers in other neighborhoods, according to a study that examined prices in a large sample of stores throughout the state.
Published online in March 2018 in the journal Public Health Nutrition, the study, conducted by researchers at UC's Nutrition Policy Institute, involved more than 200 large grocery stores, 600 small markets, and 600 convenience stores in 225 low-income neighborhoods (where at least half of the population was at or below 185 percent of the Federal Poverty Level) and compared observed prices to purchased price data from chain grocery stores in the same counties during the same months.
The study found that produce prices for the items examined (apples, bananas, oranges, carrots and tomatoes) were higher in stores in low-income neighborhoods than the average prices of those items sold in stores in the same counties during the same month. Fruits and vegetables for sale in convenience stores in low-income neighborhoods were significantly more expensive than those for sale in small markets or large grocery stores. Yet even in large grocery stores the study found prices in the low-income neighborhoods to be higher than average county grocery store prices during the same month.
“Americans eat too few fruits and vegetables to support optimal health, and we know that dietary disparities among socioeconomic groups are increasing,” said study author Wendi Gosliner. “This study suggests that one important issue may be fruit and vegetable prices — not just that calorie-per-calorie fruits and vegetables are more expensive than many unhealthy foods, but also that there are equity issues in terms of relative prices in neighborhoods where lower-income Californians live.”
Additionally, the study examined the quality and availability of fruits and vegetables in stores and found that while less than half of convenience stores (41 percent) sold fresh produce, even fewer (1 in 5) sold a wide variety of fruits or vegetables, and few of the items that were for sale were rated by trained observers to be high quality (25 percent for fruits and 14 percent for vegetables).
“This study suggests that convenience stores in low-income neighborhoods currently fail to provide access to high-quality, competitively priced fresh fruits and vegetables," said Pat Crawford, nutrition expert and study author. “A healthy diet can prevent disease and reduce health care costs in the state. States need to explore new ways to help ensure that families, particularly those living in low-income neighborhoods where convenience stores are the only food retailers, have access to healthy, high-quality foods that are affordable,” Crawford added.
The study also found that convenience stores participating in federal food programs (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program [SNAP] and/or the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children [WIC]) were more likely to sell fresh produce and to offer higher quality and a wider variety of fruits and vegetables than stores not participating in either program.
The study was conducted under contract with the California Department of Public Health. Funding is from USDA SNAP. USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.
You're thinking about making Grandma's Southern Cornbread.
You head for your pantry. You remember that six months ago you purchased a bag of cornmeal from a local supermarket and that you immediately emptied the contents into a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid.
You open the airtight jar and notice something strange. It's moving. Moving? Moving? Yes! It's crawling with a transparent carpet of dozens of nearly microscopic critters.
What? First, what are they? If you're like me, you grab your camera--in this case, a Canon EOS 7D with an MPE-65mm lens that can magnify an insect five times its life size--and click the shutter.
You post the photo on BugGuide.Net and request an identification.
The entomologists all agree: They're booklice, Liposcelis bostrychophila.
- Class Insecta (Insects)
- Order Psocodea (Barklice, Booklice, and Parasitic Lice)
- Suborder Troctomorpha
- Family Liposcelididae (Booklice)
- Genus Liposcelis
- Species bostrychophila (Booklouse)
These Liposcelis bostrychophila, or "psocids" (pronounced "so kids"), are common pests in stored grains. They're usually unseen because they're about a millimeter long--about the size of a speck of dust--and are transparent to light brown in color. They're also wingless, but can they ever crawl!
Fact is, their name, "lice," is misleading. These tiny insects are not lice; they are not parasitic. And they're everywhere. They feed on flour, cereals, grits, molds, fungi, papers, books, pollen, dead insects and the like. In fact, you've probably unknowingly eaten them--or parts of them--in your pancakes, your oatmeal or maybe even your chocolate birthday cake.
Entomologist Jeff Smith, who curates the butterfly-moth collection at the Bohart Museum of Entomology at UC Davis, took one look at the photo and commented: "They're pretty thick in there!"
"Booklice can be scavengers and often feed on the bits of mold or fungi that grow on damp materials," Smith explained. "Very old, neglected food stuffs are also subject to them, and the key to prevention is to use food materials reasonably quickly and not store them for years, store them in a nice dry location and in airtight containers."
"They very well could have been in the food already when you bought it, but they're so common that you probably have some roaming around in the house all the time, just looking for something good to eat. They'll feed on dead bugs in window sills, stale pet foods, etc."
If you're worried about what's in your cornmeal, flour, oats, biscuit mix, cake mix and other stored foods, you can pop the contents in your oven at about 120° for a half hour, and then transfer them to an airtight container, Smith says. "Your food should be okay--albeit perhaps containing a few dead booklice. We had them in an old bag (paper) of rice one time, and in several packages of cornmeal mix that were forgotten in the back of our cupboard."
A UC Davis colleague said he's seen them crawling in his flour, but his wife made pancakes from them anyway. No issues. No problem. "Just protein!" he chortled.
And from another colleague: "I once had an entire case of instant grits. The grits were completely factory-sealed in unopened plastic bags. I opened the bags and the grits were poured into hot water, but they would not sink and mix with the water. Instead the grit floated on the top of the water. I opened a second bag and looked at the grits under my stereo microscope. Each and every grain of grit had two or three little six-legged creatures standing on each grit. These creatures were 100 percent transparent, the only color was in their bodies which was the same color as the grits they were eating. I opened every 100 percent factory-sealed bag, and every bag was contaminated in this matter."
"There is nothing new about insect contamination of grain products," she added. "Another personal experience was a biscuit mix. For no particular reason, I sifted the biscuit mix while making the batch of biscuits. After sifting several cups of biscuit mix, in the sifter screen there were 4 worm-like creatures about the diameter of a standard pencil and about an inch long. These worms were 100 percent transparent, each filled with the white biscuit mix. "Consider we all eat insects, spiders, and urine and feces of all sorts of animals."
We live in world where we all eat bugs, whether we know it or not. Sometimes we may not want to know!
Statistics indicate that the average American unknowingly eats one to two pounds of insects a year. But the U.S. Food and Drug Administration "has very specific tolerances for the amount of residue in food stuffs," said Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology at UC Davis.
Want to know what the action level is? Check out this FDA document.
And the next time, you're yearning to make Grandma's Southern Cornbread, you might want to check for bugs first. Or maybe not. You might not want to know!
Californians who raise poultry outdoors are invited to get their eggs tested for contaminants.
To find out if harmful substances on the ground that are eaten by birds get passed along in the eggs they lay, Maurice Pitesky, UC Cooperative Extension poultry specialist at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, is providing free egg testing.
“We're trying to understand the connection between the environment that backyard poultry are raised in and the eggs they are producing,” Pitesky said.
Eggs from counties recently affected by wildfires will be tested for chemicals, building materials and heavy metals that may have been carried in the smoke and ash. Pitesky and Puschner are also looking for lead and PCBs in eggs from certain regions of the state.
The UC Cooperative Extension poultry specialist will share individual egg results with each poultry owner. At the end of the study, all of the results will be summarized and made available to the general public.
Pitesky describes the project in a video produced by CropMobster for UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and UC Agriculture and Natural Resources. Watch the video at https://youtu.be/3ZlytlUIS3I.
For more information about the study and how to package and ship eggs, visit http://ucanr.edu/eggtest.
Residents in Sonoma County may drop off eggs at the UC Cooperative Extension office at 133 Aviation Blvd Suite 109 in Santa Rosa. The UCCE office in Sonoma County is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.