Two public health students selected as UC ANR Global Food Initiative fellows
By Pamela Kan-Rice/UC ANR | October 15, 2019
Two graduate students from the UC Berkeley School of Public Health have been selected by UC Agriculture and Natural Resources as Global Food Initiative (GFI) Fellows for 2019-2020. Elsa Esparza and Andrea Jacobo will focus on community-based initiatives and programs related to food access, food insecurity, addressing the needs of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and highlighting the work of the local UC Cooperative Extension offices.
Esparza, second-year Masters of Public Health student, will work with UC Nutrition Policy Institute researchers on the CDFA Healthy Stores Refrigeration Grant Program Evaluation to assess the effects of neighborhood stores obtaining refrigeration units on store environments, store owner perceptions, and consumer perceptions. As an undergraduate at UC Davis, Esparza admired the GFI Fellows’ work and aspired to be a part of the program for the professional and academic opportunities.
“I hope to grow as a researcher and advocate,” Esparza said. “I hope to branch the two roles – advocacy and research – in my work at NPI. This will be possible through my work in other projects, including creating public-facing materials for policymakers. I want to learn how to frame issues and research appropriately in order to target and educate folks who are in positions of political power.”
Jacobo, first-year Doctor of Public Health student, will work with the UC ANR strategic communications team to highlight the work of the local Cooperative Extension offices to improve food security in the community. As a former community health extension agent at the University of Tennessee, Jacobo saw the impact Extension programs have on the community’s ability to manage their food dollars, cook healthy and nutritious meals, develop good agricultural practices, and develop their children’s leadership skills through 4-H. Jacobo, who is fluent in Spanish as well as English, hopes to connect California’s diverse community members to nutrition education, gardening and other programs to enhance their access to nutritious food.
“I am deeply invested in making sure every person in the community, from child to senior citizen, has access to healthy and affordable foods and resources that improve their quality of life,” Jacobo said. “I am excited to be a GFI fellow because it will allow me to pursue what I am most passionate about, community and healthy food.”
The UC Global Food Initiative was launched by UC President Janet Napolitano in 2014 with the aim of putting UC, California and the world on a pathway to sustainability. The GFI fellows are part of a group of UC graduate and undergraduate students working on food-related projects at all 10 UC campuses, UC Office of the President, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and UC ANR. Each participant receives a $3,000 award to help fund student-generated research, projects or internships that support the initiative’s efforts to address the issue of how to sustainably and nutritiously feed a world population expected to reach 8 billion by 2025.
In addition to their individual projects, GFI fellows are invited to participate in systemwide activities designed to enhance their leadership skills and enrich their understanding of the food system in California.
This article originally appeared on the Food Blog at the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources.