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UC boosts food security, reduces waste

Workshops draw on experts from variety of programs.

Linda J. Forbes, Director of Strategic Communications

May 7, 2024

3 Min Read
Workshop attendees
A University of California program in San Bernardino County taught ethnically diverse and limited-resource residents such skills as gardening and food preservation.UC SAREP

From August 2023 to March 2024, University of California Cooperative Extension in San Bernardino County provided interactive classes and demonstrations in English and Spanish for ethnically diverse and limited-resource residents that led to increased food security and reduced food waste.

These efforts were funded by the UC Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program Small Grants Program, which supports the development of sustainable community food systems. 

Workshops draw on experts

The project in San Bernardino County, led by Christine Davidson of UCCE and the Expanded Food Nutrition Education Program, mobilized a team of EFNEP, UC Master Gardener Program and UC Master Food Preserver Program staff and volunteers to educate families in underserved communities through a series of hands-on workshops.

Thirty-six mothers attended EFNEP lessons from the “Eating Smart, Being Active” curriculum focusing on improving knowledge and skills in the areas of diet quality, food resource management, food safety, physical activity and food security.

They also attended Master Gardener workshops to learn how to grow vegetables in their home gardens and compost food waste, and Master Food Preserver classes where they made healthy recipes and learned about safe food preservation with a focus on food waste prevention.

Two hundred and twenty children at two schools attended a series of EFNEP lessons and a workshop to learn about composting with worms or composting in a jar. “The students love the hands-on activities, and with this knowledge they can participate in composting food waste at home,” said Davidson. “It was especially rewarding to teach the kindergarteners about composting since it was a new concept for them.”

The SAREP grant provided funding for kits and materials that parents and children took home to apply their new knowledge in making different salads, using scraps to make vegetable broth, growing herb gardens and composting at home. “The kits are great incentives for people to attend the classes and reinforce their learning at home,” Davidson noted.

With better meal planning and proper food storage, families can save food and money. “I have begun saving scraps to make vegetable broth that I use to make rice. My kids love collecting the scraps and it saves money buying the broth,” said a parent at Bradley Elementary School in San Bernardino.

Additionally, families are educated on the organic waste reduction requirements of Senate Bill 1383 and how they can do their part to reduce food waste.

The final product of the SAREP-funded project will be a Food Waste Prevention Workshop Toolkit in Spanish and English that will be shared widely and delivered in UC ANR workshops by staff and volunteers in other counties. “Our goal beyond providing these materials to support our community is to help grow their use across UC ANR so more families can benefit from them,” said Davidson.

Small grants, big impacts

Funding priorities for the Small Grants Program include supporting California farmers, ranchers and land stewards in the adoption of environmentally regenerative practices and partnering with rural, urban and tribal communities to expand access to healthy, sustainably produced food and promote community well-being.

“The Small Grants Program is an important part of our mission,” said Ruth Dahlquist-Willard, interim director of UC SAREP, a program of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources. “Program outcomes show that a small financial investment can have a large impact in improving the lives of Californians.”

Source: University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources

About the Author(s)

Linda J. Forbes

Director of Strategic Communications, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources

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