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Tomorrow: History in the Making

September 27, 2022

Tomorrow, the White House is hosting the first conference in over 50 years that focuses on food, nutrition, and health. With the ambitious goal of ending hunger and diet-related disease by 2030, President Biden and his team of Cabinet Secretaries, including Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, have released a national strategy today. It includes five pillars addressing the challenges we face in meeting the stated hunger and nutrition goals. Check out the strategy here.

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Food Policy and Sustainability Leadership 2022/2023 Cohort

September 1, 2022

We are thrilled to introduce Arizona State University’s Food Policy & Sustainability Leadership 2022-2023 class. This is our fourth cohort of students for this graduate program and every year it continues to grow. With a commitment to shaping food and farm policy in the public interest, this cohort of leaders hail from across the country including Arizona, California, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Washington D.C., Washington state, and Wisconsin.

To create the inclusive, diverse and resilient food systems of the future, we need bold and knowledgeable change agents to transform public policy. These rising stars represent business, nonprofit, and academia, modeling the community necessary for food system transformation. They’re passionate about reducing food waste, regenerative and organic agriculture, and local food systems. They’re dedicated to school food reform, racial equity, and food sovereignty.

They are the future of food.

Meet the Leaders:

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Deputy Secretary of USDA: A Leader for Today and the Future

August 22, 2022

By: Allison Perkins, ASU Food Systems graduate student.

It was an honor for our graduate cohort to meet with Deputy Secretary of USDA, Dr. Jewel Bronaugh, during our DC Immersive trip. As a graduate student of Sustainable Food Systems, I was inspired by Dr. Bronaugh’s intersectional work which I can learn from to enhance impact across my academic, professional, and personal life. Deputy Secretary Bronaugh spoke as both a leader and compassionate individual aligned with our cohort’s mission to drive sustainable food systems. Bronaugh created space for an open dialogue to discuss our backgrounds and experiences as we learned from her wealth of knowledge in agricultural policy. The meeting was unique, and it was quickly evident that being Deputy Secretary of USDA is not just a job for Dr. Bronaugh but a role she takes responsibility for and accomplishes with grace.

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USAID Feed the Future: More Important than Ever

August 15, 2022

By: Deborah Sadler, ASU Food Systems graduate student.

On Tuesday, May 10th, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Chief Scientist for Resilience and Food Security, Dr. Rob Bertram, came to the ASU campus in Washington D.C., where I had the privilege of being amongst the Sustainable Food Systems graduate students to hear him speak. He explained the history and work of the Feed the Future program, the U.S. government’s global hunger and food security initiative, and the challenges that lie ahead in combating global hunger. Dr. Bertram has worked with USAID for over twenty years, where he draws on his expertise in plant genetics and his international experience to find scientific solutions to hunger and malnutrition.

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Industry Perspectives on Influencing the Food System

August 10, 2022

By: Keith Arnold, ASU Food Systems graduate student.

Before my visit to our nation’s capital for our food policy course, my opinion regarding lobbyists, admittedly from an uninformed perspective, was of someone paid to push their company’s product or issue ahead of others. I didn’t know what it took to have a voice on Capitol Hill that carried weight to influence real change. However, this DC immersive trip was richly informative as our guest speakers were full of perspective, insight, rigor, intelligence, drive, and personality. Getting an industry insider perspective on discussions with policymakers was eye-opening. We were all thankful for their time and their invitation to join the cause to pursue change in the food system.

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Talking Nutrition with Kumar Chandran, USDA Senior Advisor

August 7, 2022

By Abigail Martone-Richards, ASU Food Systems graduate student.

During our cohort’s DC immersive program, we had the pleasure of sitting down with Kumar Chandran, a USDA Senior Advisor focusing on nutrition under Secretary Vilsack. This isn’t Mr. Chandran’s first foray at USDA; he previously served as Chief of Staff to the Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services in the Obama Administration. Just prior to his most recent position, however, he served as Policy Director for the national nonprofit, FoodCorps. Chandran’s current appointment to USDA is significant for a number of reasons including President Biden’s (and Secretary Vilsack’s) commitment to a more diverse government. But it is really Chandran’s expertise in food policy that is so vital to the department, especially after it had endured four years of unique challenges and setbacks under the Trump administration.

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The Grit, Determination, and Plans of Janie Hipp

August 4, 2022

By: Eleanor Ross, ASU Food Systems graduate student.

They say never meet your heroes, but that is only because they haven’t had the pleasure of speaking with Janie Hipp. One of the biggest highlights of our DC Immersive trip was sitting down with the General Counsel for the USDA. A hugely important and impressive role, the General Counsel is tasked with legal services and oversight across the USDA mission and programs. While the gravitas of this position can be intimidating, our time with Janie Hipp was filled with honesty, humor, and passion.

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Reflections on a Regenerative Farm Field Day in Nebraska

August 1, 2022

By: Jane Coghlan, Swette Center Food Systems Research Specialist.

It was an overcast day in mid-July when I turned onto the gravel road leading me to the Grain Place Farm in central Nebraska. As I turned, I slowed down to take notice of the familiar sign which reads: “How your food is produced does matter.” On this special day, there was a field day being hosted on the farm to invite the public to learn about their farming methods. Attendees also had the opportunity to take a tour of their grain processing facility, have lunch prepared by Indigenous chef Anthony Warrior, and hear from guest speakers Paul Schiefer from Amy’s Kitchen and Kellee James from Mercaris. A large and diverse crowd gathered on the farm which was composed of farmers, researchers, artists, foodies, local community members, and lots of others from various backgrounds. Despite their differences, they all had one thing in common: an interest in the connection between agriculture and planetary health. 

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Where the Water Goes: Water in Arizonan Agriculture

July 25, 2022

By Tucker Larson, Swette Center student worker. 

It’s no secret that agriculture uses a large percentage of our Earth’s fresh water supply. In Arizona, 74% of fresh water is used for agricultural purposes. That number has been as high as 90% in the mid to late 1900’s. The decrease in water consumption in Arizona’s agricultural sector can be explained by the ever-expanding urban sprawl as well as improved irrigation technologies. In 1973, Construction of the Central Arizona Project (CAP) began. The project, which ended in 1993, ensured a substantial amount of water that allowed for continued growth in residential, industrial and agricultural sectors. For CAP to go forward, Arizona renounced their water rights to the Colorado River from senior to junior status. This means that as soon as water restrictions begin to come into effect, Arizona will be the first to feel them. The Colorado River provides a large amount of water to Arizona’s larger cities. In Phoenix, that is two fifths of all water and in other parts of the Phoenix Valley and state, the reliance on CAP water can be much heavier.

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Evolutionary implications of economies of scale in food production for the sustainability of agricultural systems

July 22, 2022

By Mauricio R. Bellon, Swette Center Research Professor.

Last month, I participated in the Sustainability Research & Innovation Congress 2022 (SRI2022) that took place in Pretoria, South Africa from June 20-24. The Congress is “a transdisciplinary gathering in sustainability – a space of dynamic advocacy for sustainability scholarship, innovation, collaboration, and action." It takes place annually in different parts of the world and brings together global leaders, experts, industry, practitioners, and innovators to inspire action and promote transformation in sustainability.

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Dr. Chavonda Jacobs-Young: Creating a Healthier Future for Americans

July 21, 2022

By Mary Mik, ASU Food Systems graduate student.

While in Washington D.C., our ASU sustainable food policy cohort met with key stakeholders in the agriculture realm—both virtually and in person. We were honored to have the opportunity to hear from Dr. Chavonda Jacobs-Young, who since our visit has become the newly confirmed Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics (REE) so she will oversee USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS), the Economic Research Service (ERS), the National Agriculture Statistics Services (NASS), the National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and the office of the Chief Scientist. Prior to her current position, Dr. Jacobs-Young was the Director of the Office of the Chief Scientist at the USDA.

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Farm Production and Conservation Leadership Discuss Institutionalizing Change

July 20, 2022

By: Sharla Strong, ASU Food Systems graduate student.

This spring, my classmates and I had the opportunity to travel to Washington D.C. to meet with multiple food policy experts who work within and alongside the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). As graduate students in the Food Policy and Sustainability Leadership Certificate program with Arizona State University, our class had the privilege to meet with politically appointed leaders within the Farm Production and Conservation (FPAC) Mission Area. FPAC includes the Farm Service Agency (FSA), the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and the Risk Management Agency (RMA). The FSA, NRCS and RMA are three key farmer and rancher facing agencies within the USDA and they provide services across multiple field offices in every state. 

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"The Budget Overseer"

July 18, 2022

By: Jason Peña, ASU Food Systems graduate student.

The President of the United States is surrounded by people who carry out missions to maintain order and progress. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is a specific agency within the Executive Office of the President (EOP) that helps the President implement their vision. The OMB performs this function by developing and executing the President's budget and through providing guidance to agencies, reviewing and clearing testimony, regulations, and Presidential Executive Orders. Working for the OMB requires flexibility, an extremely high level of accuracy, and good negotiation skills. The career employees of the OMB are subject matter experts and provide support across many departments and administrations. Overall, the OMB serves three functions: 1) Budget, 2) Management, and 3) Regulation. OMB is the largest office within the EOP, which also includes the National Security Council, the Domestic Policy Council, and the Council of Economic Advisors among other White House staff offices.

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The Hagstrom Hangout

July 10, 2022

By: Zac DeJovine, ASU Food Systems graduate student.

Following a long, exciting, tiring, informative, and insightful week, my classmates and I had one final trip to make for our D.C. Food Immersion course as students in the Sustainable Food Systems program. Jerry Hagstrom, journalist, local celebrity, and walking encyclopedia of Washingtonian culture, had invited our cohort to his home in Woodley Park for a chat about food over some pizza and wine.

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WWOOFing on a Small Organic Farm in NY

July 1, 2022

By: Elora Bevacqua, Swette Center student worker.

World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms is an organization like no other that provides anyone the opportunity to travel and work on farms around the world. The process starts with registering as a WWOOFer on their website and finding a host. When I decided to pursue this opportunity, I wanted to stay in the United States as a “test run” before committing to an abroad experience. After scrolling through the list of hosts located all over the country, I sent messages to many in various northeastern states. Wainscott Farm in upstate New York was the first to respond and Lisa, my future host, accepted my request! 

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Fighting Food Crises with Jocelyn Brown Hall of FAO

June 29, 2022

By: Shelby Kaplan, ASU Food Systems graduate student.

Jocelyn Brown Hall is the Director of the North American Liaison Office of FAO, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, which has a focus on food security and agriculture management. The organization was formed post World War II in Canada to reduce hunger while improving food and nutrition security. Currently, there are 190 participating members, and they are present in over 130 countries across the globe. FAO has three major goals in the current food price crisis: let the market decide, don't close off borders, and start thinking about alternatives. I believe these goals are even more important with current events.

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Equity through the Marketing and Regulatory Program

June 27, 2022

By: Stephanie Lip, ASU Food Systems graduate student

During our weeklong DC Immersive, several of our meetings took place in the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) building. On one particular day, we had the privilege of meeting with the team from the Marketing and Regulatory Program (MRP) in the USDA conference room where people from all over the world come to discuss matters with policy officials within the Department.

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Farm Bill Discussions with the Senate Ag Committee Staff

June 24, 2022

By: Wazenn Nithesh, ASU Food Systems graduate student.

Agriculture was one of "three great branches of domestic industry" along with commerce and manufacturing. All three were equally entitled to the care and protection of the government. Agricultural interests were distinct and not always best served when included with those of commerce. On December 9, 1825, by a vote of 22-14, the U.S Senate approved a resolution creating a standing Committee on Agriculture.

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Fighting Hunger Differently at DC Central Kitchen

June 14, 2022

By Kate Seybold, ASU Food Systems graduate student.

As part of our Washington DC Immersive, our Food Policy and Sustainability Leadership cohort had the privilege of visiting the future home of DC Central Kitchen. Executive Director Mike Curtin and Healthy Corners Program Manager Yael Reichler met with us to share about DC Central Kitchen’s history, the innovative work they are doing to create a stronger and more equitable food system, and the exciting things on the horizon for the organization.

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Up Top Acres: Rooftop Farms to Feed DC

June 9, 2022

By: Ami Freeberg, ASU Food Systems graduate student.

As part of the Food Policy and Sustainability Leadership program’s immersive week in Washington DC, our cohort visited one of Up Top Acres rooftop farms. Kathleen O’Keefe, a co-founder of the business, shared their story, strategies, successes, and challenges with our class.

Since 2014, Up Top Acres has grown food, flowers, and herbs on building roofs throughout the DC area. The company came together by recognizing the need for developers to manage stormwater through green infrastructure (EPA consent decree), an increasing demand for locally grown food, and interest in sustainable building practices. Today, Up Top Acres manages 17 rooftop farm and garden sites, totaling four acres of growing space.

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