Gary Paul Nabhan sees access to healthy and affordable food as a basic human right, and he has a committed ally in the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
In 2011, the foundation granted $1.6 million to name Nabhan as the UA’s first endowed chair in sustainable food systems and to help the Southwest Center understand and address food insecurity and nutrition-related diseases in the region.
In the years since, the Kellogg Foundation’s funding has helped Nabhan advance his work and given him the resources to involve UA students more closely.
“I’ve been able to focus on engaging students in research teams. We’ve involved them in looking at farmers markets and swap meets as sources of food for low-income households. They’ve also helped track foods moving across the entire supply chain from Mexico into the United States,” he says.
Students have also helped Nabhan with outreach efforts such as the Arizona Food and Farm Finance Forum, held in conjunction with Local First Arizona. In addition to the support of the Kellogg endowment, he credits the 100 percent student engagement initiative with bringing more students into the UA’s efforts to serve the community’s food-related needs.
“The student engagement program across the campus has been vital to having students work on real-world solutions, and we’re fortunate that many of them are attracted to food solutions,” Nabhan says.
In order to ensure that food studies become “mainstreamed into the very identity of our university,” Nabhan’s next goal is to help raise an endowment for the UA’s Center for Regional Food Studies.
“We really need Arizona residents to step up and say this is one of their priorities in practice, policy and in what kinds of organizations they support,” he says.
“A third of our community struggles, and we need to take that seriously.”