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Past Events

Sustainable Food Systems Emerging Issues Webinar Series

The University of California, Agriculture and Natural Resources Sustainable Food Systems Strategic Initiative Panel hosted a free, two-part webinar series on emerging issues within the food  system.

Part 1, ‘Harvesting Solutions: A Trio of Perspectives on Addressing Food Waste from Field to Fork' occurred on February 22, 2024. It explored global perspectives on food waste within the food distribution chain, innovative food waste recycling, and statewide consumer education programs.

Part 2, 'Farm to Corrections: Cultivating Justice through Nutrition and Gardening Initiatives' occurred on February 29, 2024. It delved into initiatives for justice-involved individuals' access to local produce and nutrition and gardening education.

View the webinar recording links below for transformative insights shaping a more just, healthier, and sustainable future.

Part 1 - Harvesting Solutions: A Trio of Perspectives on Addressing Food Waste from Field to Fork

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Webinar Recording

Food waste in household garbage cans. Photo credit: petrr, CCA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons.
Food waste in household garbage cans. Photo credit: petrr, CCA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons.

Explore insights on factors influencing food loss and waste, delve into innovative recycling techniques, and explore statewide initiatives targeting household food waste. Experts in postharvest handling, food waste recycling, and community education, will share research findings and strategies. Don't miss this dynamic trio of talks aimed at cultivating a more sustainable food system.

Watch the webinar recording to cultivate knowledge and contribute to a waste-free future.


  • Explore global perspectives on factors influencing food loss and waste.
  • Delve into innovative food waste recycling techniques to minimize greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Investigate opportunities in UC ANR’s statewide programs targeting household food waste reduction.


An overview of food waste in fruits and vegetables
Speaker: Deirdre Holcroft

Loss and waste of fruits and vegetables can be measured by different factors and varies considerably in different global supply chains. An overview of these factors, the supply chains, and the environmental impact of wasting about 30% of global production is provided. Research on the impact of postharvest handling, use of technologies, changes to market specifications, and date labels will be discussed in context of food waste.

Exploring means to extract embodied energy and lower greenhouse gas emissions in food waste recycling
Speaker: Michael Cohen

A crucial aspect of achieving the goals outlined in California's strategy for reducing short-lived climate pollutant emissions (Senate Bill 1383) involves repurposing food genuinely unsuitable for human or animal consumption—commonly known as food waste. Several years before SB 1383 became law, the City of San José and GreenWaste implemented a forward-thinking high solids anaerobic digestion process that converts food waste organics into methane-rich biogas that powers the facility. The remaining solids undergo composting at a state-of-the-art facility in Gilroy, CA. To further minimize greenhouse gas emissions, GreenWaste will be collaborating with UC researchers on a project aimed at increasing air penetration into compost piles through co-composting food waste with biochar, a strategy already proven to achieve significant greenhouse gas emission reductions in agricultural composts. In my talk I will cover the transformative potential of such initiatives in meeting ambitious climate goals.

The opportunities in statewide programs in reducing household food waste: Results from UC ANR household food practice needs assessment
Speaker: Yu Meng

Households contribute the greatest amount of food waste in the US and consumer education is one strategy needed to divert this waste from landfills. The presenter will share results from UC ANR Household Food Waste Survey project with statewide program educators and volunteers, pilot tested food waste project and curriculum with 4-H youth, and ReFED funded Household Food Waste Study with nutrition program participants. The results show there are many opportunities and needs to engage community education specialists in delivering household food waste reduction education for underserved communities.


Deirdre Holcroft
Private Consultant, Holcroft Postharvest Consulting

Deirdre comes from a fruit farming background in Zimbabwe and studied horticulture at the University of KwaZulu Natal, and at the University of California, Davis (PhD 1998). Deirdre worked in South Africa and the United States before settling in France. With 20 years’ experience in industry (AgroFresh, Dole Fresh Vegetables) and academia (University of Stellenbosch, University of KwaZulu Natal and Michigan State University), she launched Holcroft Postharvest Consulting in 2011. Deirdre specializes in the postharvest handling of fruits, vegetables, and fresh-cut produce with an emphasis on reducing loss and waste, while improving quality, shelf-life, and profitability.

Michael Cohen
Organic Materials Management and Agri-Food Systems Advisor, UC ANR

Michael’s work as an Organic Materials Management and Agri-Food Systems Advisor for UC Cooperative Extension in Santa Clara County is dedicated to advancing sustainable practices in organic materials management. Through applied research and community outreach activities, Michael actively pursues innovative solutions to redirect organic materials away from landfills, repurposing these materials for alternative uses, such as soil amendments and bioenergy production. Through the implementation of such projects, nutrients from the organic waste sector cycle back into working landscapes and food system supply chains, thereby bolstering the resilience and sustainability of Bay Area food and farming systems. Michael holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from CSU Northridge and a Ph.D. in microbiology from UC Davis. His research background includes extensive work in wastewater and biomaterials management at universities and institutes in the US and abroad.

Yu Meng
Youth Family and Community Advisor, UC ANR

Dr. Yu Meng is the Youth Family and Community Advisor for Riverside, Imperial, and San Bernardino Counties. She conducts research and academically oversees UC CalFresh Healthy Living, Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program, 4-H Positive Youth Development, Master Food Preserver, and Farm Smart programs at the UC Cooperative Extension and Desert Research and Extension Center. She is Chair for Consumer Climate Change Literacy Workgroup and the workgroup is currently working on understanding the educational needs from underserved communities to reduce household food waste.


Mary Lu Arpaia
Extension Specialist/Professor of Extension  in Subtropical Horticulture, Dept. of Botany and Plant Sciences, UC Riverside

Mary Lu's emphasis in her research and extension program is examining the factors in both production and postharvest handling which influences produce quality. She obtained a B.A. in Botany at the University of California, Berkeley in 1975 and a MSc in Horticulture (1979) and PhD in Plant Physiology (1985) at the University of California, Davis. She has been an extension specialist based from the UC Riverside campus since 1983 where her program has focused on all aspects of subtropical fruit production and postharvest handling.

Part 2 - Farm to Corrections: Cultivating Justice through Nutrition and Gardening Initiatives

Thursday, February 29, 2024

Webinar Recording

(See more resources at the bottom of this page.)

California State Prison Solano resident Patrick Range eating a local Bartlett pear. Photo credit: Evett Killmartin.
California State Prison Solano resident Patrick Range eating a local Bartlett pear. Photo credit: Evett Killmartin.

Explore innovative initiatives by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation in collaboration with the Nutrition Policy Institute and Impact Justice, including a 'Harvest of the Month' program to increase access to fresh, locally-grown fresh fruits and vegetables and trauma-informed nutrition workshops. Uncover the impact of the University of California’s Master Gardener's projects on rehabilitation and workforce development.

Watch the webinar recording to learn more about shaping a more just, healthier and sustainable future.


  • Examine initiatives enhancing access to California-grown produce in correctional facilities.
  • Delve into trauma-informed nutrition education for justice-impacted individuals.
  • Explore the role of Master Gardener's projects in rehabilitation and workforce development.
  • Understand the therapeutic benefits of horticulture and its impact on recidivism.


Produce during and after prison: Increasing justice-impacted individuals’ access to CA-grown produce and nutrition education
Speakers: Carolyn CheliusHeile GantanLance Eshelman

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is the single largest public purchaser of food in the state and is charged with feeding and maintaining the well-being of nearly 100,000 incarcerated individuals. Despite the abundance of agricultural production in California, there remain untapped opportunities for increasing the amount and variety of California-grown fruits and vegetables—particularly fresh, local items—served to incarcerated people. There is also a need for nutrition education among individuals recently released from prison. In this presentation, we will discuss two innovative efforts to increase access to CA-grown produce and increase nutrition education among currently and formerly incarcerated individuals in California—a “Harvest of the Month” program in CDCR facilities, and peer-facilitated, trauma-informed nutrition education workshops conducted with formerly incarcerated individuals across California.

Master Gardener’s Prison Gardens Projects
Speaker: Missy Gable

Gardening plays an important role in the rehabilitation of incarcerated individuals. This presentation will focus on volunteer-led projects within the UC Master Gardener Program to bring gardening, garden based education, and workforce development to incarcerated people. Together, we’ll touch on the therapeutic benefits of horticulture and the impact of gardening education on recidivism.


Carolyn Chelius
Project Policy Analyst, Nutrition Policy Institute, UC ANR

Carolyn is a Project Policy Analyst at the Nutrition Policy Institute at the University of California. She evaluates policies and programs aimed at increasing access to healthy food and reducing diet-related health disparities. Current projects include expanding access to California-grown produce in California state prisons and assessing the impact of free school meals for all in California. Previously, Carolyn worked as an Agricultural Economist at the USDA Economic Research Service, and as the Food Literacy Project Manager at Harvard University. She holds dual undergraduate degrees in Economics and Environmental Studies from Wellesley College, and an M.S. in Food and Nutrition Policy and Programs from Tufts University.

Heile Gantan
Senior Program Associate, Impact Justice

Heile Gantan is a Senior Program Associate with the Food in Prison Project. Her background in nutrition and public policy and her lived experience with the California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation motivates her work to improve the state of food throughout jails and prisons. Heile obtained her B.S. in nutrition with a double minor in business administration and marketing from California State University, Sacramento. She completed her master’s degree in public policy at the University of California, Irvine, with a special focus on health equity and justice.

Lance Eshelman
Departmental Food Administrator, Division of Adult Institutions, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation

Lance Eshelman is the Departmental Food Administrator for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Born and raised in Blythe California, Lance began his career with CDCR when he became a Correctional Supervising Cook at Chuckawalla Valley State Prison in 2009. Since then, he promoted through the ranks in Food Services and now provides guidance to the entire CDCR Food Services department. As a leader in the Correctional Food Services industries, it is one of his goals to shape the Food Services operation to be looked upon as a valued component of the rehabilitative nature of CDCR.

Missy Gable
Director, UC Master Gardener Program

Missy serves as the academic and administrative lead for the UC Master Gardener Program, covering all 58 counties and reaching millions of Californians each year. She has been in this role since 2013, and is proud to provide strategic direction, policy, advocacy, and more for the 6,000+ volunteers and network of staff & academics that comprise the community. Missy's focus is ensuring the program is aligned and resourced to address California’s most critical needs through gardening education (drought, fire, food insecurity).


Danielle Lee
Director of Communications & Research Engagement, Nutrition Policy Institute, UC ANR

Danielle Lee is a registered dietitian and public health nutritionist working with the Nutrition Policy Institute at the University of California. She conducts research and evaluation projects to inform federal and state food policies to increase access to healthy and sustainable food primarily for families with low income. Danielle also directs NPI’s internal and external communications. She received her BS in Clinical Nutrition from UC Davis, her MPH in Public Health Nutrition from UC Berkeley, and completed her dietetic internship at California State University, Northridge. Previously, Danielle was the inaugural Sustainability Manager for UC Davis Dining Services where she advocated for and implemented sustainable foodservice policies for the campus and UC system.


AB 822 - California's Preference Policy for Agricultural Products Grown within the State
Factsheet highlighting AB 822, California’s preference policy for agricultural produce grown in-state.

Findings from a trauma-informed nutrition education curriculum for people returning from incarceration
Report detailing nutrition education workshops held with formerly incarcerated individuals and their families.

Nutrition after Incarceration: Findings from a Workshop Series
Practice Brief communicating high-level findings from the nutrition education workshops.

Farm to Corrections: Promising Practices from Across the United States
Short report detailing promising practices in farm-to-corrections efforts across the US.

Farm to Corrections: Opportunities & Challenges in Integrating California-Grown Produce into the State Prison System
Report detailing opportunities and challenges to integrating California-grown produce into California state prisons.

Eating Behind Bars: Ending the Hidden Punishment of Food in Prison
Impact Justice report discussing produce in prison nationally.