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News last update:14 Jan 2016

Food security focus for California Uni

The University of California campuses is starting a new initiative on how to grow food in the face of severe drought and rising temperatures, Reuters reports.

The initiative also entails buying food from local growers, grant more scholarships to agriculture students and teach farmers in the United States and around the world how to grow food with less water.

Hunger and obesity
"The programme gives the university a voice in global policy discussions", said Janet Napolitano, the former Homeland Security chief who took over as president of the University last year. "A billion people - most of them in the developing world - suffer from chronic hunger or serious micronutrient deficiencies. Another half a billion - primarily in the industrialised nations of the world - are obese", said Napolitano. The food initiative is one of several steps taken by Napolitano to raise the university's profile, modernise its course offerings and shore up its shaky finances since taking the helm last fall. "It is a commitment to apply a laser focus on what University of California can do as a public research university, in one of the most robust agricultural regions in the world, to take on one of the world's most pressing issues," Napolitano said.

Brought on from her post in the Obama administration in part for her political savvy, Napolitano has lobbied the legislature for more money, implemented programs aimed at helping disadvantaged and undocumented immigrant students and proposed a tuition freeze, among other actions. To jump start the initiative, Napolitano announced three US$2,500 fellowships to undergraduate or graduate students on each campus whose work relates to agriculture or food. Napolitano has not set a specific budget for the new initiative, but officials said the university will use existing funds to pay for research projects including studying the amount of food that goes to waste in school cafeterias or grocery store stock rooms. The university also plans to seek new funds from the federal government for food-related research and education, she said.

Research projects
Plans include incorporating food-related issues into existing undergraduate and graduate classes and building and expanding gardens at each campus. The university also hopes to start research projects looking into how government policies shape the way food is bought and sold in the United States and overseas, Napolitano said.

Source: Reuters

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