- Author: Wendy Powers
Former California Secretary of Agriculture, A.G. Kawamura, and former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, were the speakers for a webinar last week addressing what COVID-19 has revealed about our food system. Their message: We are in our 'ah-ha moment' where we can look back to better see forward. Other countries that had gone through SARS or other pandemics were better prepared than the U.S. and experienced less disruption and better containment. Now, the U.S. has an opportunity to appreciate the importance of food production and the need for expanded food access so that we are not in a position of disproportionate impact when the next pandemic or crisis occurs. When asked what he would want to see as a stimulus package's priority, Secretary Vilsack responded that an increase in SNAP benefits without barriers to access would be his top priority.
Regarding food production and processing, Secretary Vilsack stressed that we need to think about building a system of resiliency and give that attribute as much attention as we have provided to efficiency. A resilient system may be less efficient, but it will ensure food access during crises. The resilient food system doesn't completely replace what we have now, but adds another layer with a complimentary food system that collects, processes, and distributes locally produced food. This system may not be as efficient, which typically means more cost to the consumer. However, as part of a national food resiliency plan, the government could choose to subsidize the complimentary system.
Secretary Vilsack addressed the need for more public funding for research and repeated what I have heard from others. Like NIH, who justifies their need for more funding by stating that they can 'cure cancer,' agriculture needs to make a bold statement about preventing cancer or eliminating hunger to access more substantial funding. Secretary Kawamura talked about the need to re-think the role of each sector, including Cooperative Extension. He indicated that the university plays an essential role in moving us from our current ‘old structure' to ‘new structure' that emphasizes food system resiliency and equitable food access. Cooperative Extension continues to play a role in bridging discovery and implementation.
UC ANR is well-positioned to lead this conversation. In addition to a current effort, led by two of our Strategic Initiative Leaders, to imagine our food system in a food-secure world, we have demonstrated our programs' impact on increasing food security. Here's one example of the impact statements reported this last year that we shared with our NIFA partners:
- Of the 187 EFNEP graduates in Tulare and Kings Counties, 81% of participants showed improvement in food resource management practices. Additionally, results from 83 participants indicated $70.70 in average monthly cost savings, suggesting that making informed food decisions can help families improve nutrition and food resource management behaviors essential to maximizing the use of limited resources, supporting a healthy diet, and improving food security. (Deepa Srivastava)
As we wind down June, we recognize that several members of the UC ANR family are preparing for their next life adventure. Congratulations to all of our retirees. And, thank you, for all of your contributions and effort during your time with UC ANR! We wish you well, and we will miss you. Please, check-in often.
- Author: Wendy Powers
I hope everyone had a good weekend, enjoying Juneteenth, Father's Day, and the summer solstice.
Summer solstice – the end to increasing day length. It also marks the anniversary of my start date at UC ANR. I have now completed four years with UC ANR. No need to send lavish gifts; I'm sure Tu and Glenda have that covered. Likewise, keep any hate mail to yourselves. The anniversary represents a need to renew my required training and my annual review with myself.
In addition to training renewals, this year, I added the UC six-part implicit bias training to my learning management system (LMS) dashboard. I would recommend the training. Not only is it useful, but there is no penalty for reading quickly. During the first session, I found the Stroop test to be particularly insightful, irrespective of the fact that I did poorly on the Color-Word test. I knew that cows drank water, but I responded that the white part of the egg was the yolk. At least I didn't spell it 'yoke.' I consider the surface area question a trick because it was not specified that we only consider the tabletop. I'll get over that by the end of the week. In a later session, session 4, perhaps, I learned that I have a slight affinity for SoCal. The SoCal photos were more likely to include water, and water is my preference. Overall, I would recommend the training to everyone. It is three hours of learning that can help pave a different future if you choose to look at it from that perspective.
Last week ended with good news on the DACA decision and the Supreme Court LGBTQ ruling earlier in the week. We didn't gain much clarity on the UC ANR budget. What I do know is that when UC ANR's budget is not increased in step with campus increases, we can't treat UC ANR academics, including those CE Specialists that are campus-based, like campus academics. I continue to be amazed at how prestigious the UC system is, despite the class structure permeating throughout the system. I can't help but wonder how much stronger we could be if that class structure were absent.
Here are some other things I reflected on during my annual review with myself:
- We will have greater success by not relying on state and federal funding sources to pave our future. If we wait to have final budget numbers to plan this year and our future, we are behind. The past decades are evident that current support for higher education, including Cooperative Extension, is not what it was 40+ years ago.
- We have the power to control our future, and it takes work to put that power to use. Collectively and collaboratively, we can make this work.
- We have to be bold in our actions. We've laid the foundation in our efforts to augment our state funds. While earlier this year it appeared the work would pay off, life interfered. However, the foundation remains to act on a different game plan, one that jumps, not crawls, towards our future.
- Everyone has a role in bold change. Like implicit bias, leadership can't just say 'we won't tolerate,' and it suddenly disappears. It takes everyone, headed in the same direction, to make change happen and stick.
Imagine what we can accomplish together!
I participated in a Friday morning webinar about the future of our food system. I'll share more on the conversation in my next post. It, too, spoke to the need for change to redirect the charted course.