6 UC Berkeley students, graduates recieve inaugural food crisis awards

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The University of California recognized six UC Berkeley students and graduates Tuesday with the Global Food Initiative’s inaugural 30 Under 30 Awards for their work on global food issues.

UC President Janet Napolitano introduced the 30 Under 30 Awards to highlight the progress made by 30 young leaders toward solving the global food crisis and addressing issues such as “food education, access and security, health and sustainability,” according to UCOP spokesperson Claire Doan. The award was launched by the UC Global Food Initiative and will be given out annually.

“Interest in all aspects of the food system — from the food security of students here scaling up to global issues — has never been greater,” said J. Keith Gilless, dean of the College of Natural Resources, in an email. “It doesn’t surprise me in the least that so many people with Berkeley connections made this list.”

The six recipients — Komal Ahmad, Ruben Canedo, Sophie Egan, Elaine Lander, Laura Moreno and Lauren Ponisio — were chosen through public nomination via an online submission form, which became available in January.

After assessing the eligibility the candidates, a Global Food Initiative committee identified 67 finalists who were asked to describe their work on food issues. The committee included industry leaders such as Michael Moss, author of a New York Times best-seller, Glenda Humiston, vice president of the agriculture and natural resources division at the University of California, and Napolitano herself.

“On a personal level it’s a shock and awe to be included,” said recipient Laura Moreno on receiving the award. “(It) lends credibility to the type of work I do.”

Moreno is currently a campus doctoral student and a project manager for the Natural Resources Defense Council, a nonprofit involved in environmental, food and agricultural issues. Moreno’s research — which explores ways to prevent and understand household food waste —  argues that the quantities and prices at which food is sold make waste inevitable on a societal level, in contrast to her previous view that food waste is caused by individual behavior.

Another recipient, Elaine Lander, promotes food education through the Food Literacy Center. Lander’s program, which teaches elementary and kindergarten students across eight schools, seeks to increase knowledge about healthy snacks such as fruits and vegetables.

“Food education is so important,” Lander said. “(It) supersedes all age demographics, all genders (and) all ethnicities. Everybody eats.”

Ruben Canedo, a staff member of the Educational Opportunity Program, works to address basic needs through organizations such as the UC Berkeley Food Security Committee. Canedo stressed that many students come to college lacking life skills such as financial wellness and nutritional knowledge necessary to maximize health.

“If (students) are not nurtured in mind, body and spirit, they will not be able to perform at their best,” Canedo said.

Contact Lillian Dong at [email protected].