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Food and Agribusiness Institute

Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2011

Santa Clara's Food and Agribuisness Institute (FAI) was established in 1973 in the Leavey School of Business. The graduate institute initially provided an agribusiness MBA, which was later adapted into a food and agribusiness concentration in the early 2000s. In recent years, food-related courses have been offered to the undergraduate business population and FAI is quickly becoming a resource for all business students with the introduction of a Food, Hunger, Poverty and Environment Pathway. The Office of Sustainability recently sat down with FAI to discuss the transition, coming events and Father Engh's call for action.

Office of Sustainability (OS): Describe FAI's recent transition from an MBA institution, to a resource for all business students including undergrads.
FAI: We have a strong presence in the MBA program with over 35 MBA students currently pursuing the concentration. However, food focused business courses have been offered at the undergraduate level for a few years. When the Pathways were introduced as part of the new core, the Director of the Food and Agribusiness Institute, Dr. Greg Baker, saw an opportunity to bring food, business, and social justice together into the Food, Hunger, Poverty, Environment Pathway. We are pleased that this Pathway provides us with a greater opportunity to engage with students at the undergraduate level.

In the last year and a half, we have focused on organizing more campus events and field experiences related to food and agribusiness. We have been pleased to work with on and off campus cosponsors who support our events and help us advertise. We often work with the Office of Sustainability, the Environmental Studies Institute, and the Bronco Urban Gardens Program when we present an event as part of the Food for Thought Speaker Series. We are collaborating with SCU Dining Services by Bon Appétit to make the Follow Your Food Series possible, and we have worked with the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship on some of our Business of Speaker Series. We have also been happy to work with great student groups like the International Business Network at the MBA level and B-LEJIT at the undergraduate level.

OS: Besides putting on great events for the campus community, describe some of FAI's outside initiatives.
FAI: One of our primary research initiatives is the impact of hunger on the local community. Through the Food and Agribusiness Institute, Drew Starbird, dean of the business school has conducted hunger elimination research for the last three years for Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties. The research has been completed in collaboration with the Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties. Dr. Starbird’s research, called the Hunger Index, was developed to measure hunger for the most food insecure households within specific counties. Each year, the Food and Agribusiness Institute hosts the Hunger Issues Forum in September before the academic year begins. The event that focuses on hunger and related issues in both our local community and at the national level and brings together over a hundred attendees including political representatives, students, faculty, researchers, advocates, individuals served by the Second Harvest Food Bank, and leaders from the community, from non-profit organizations, and from faith-based groups. The purpose of the Hunger Issues Forum is to raise awareness and provide education about the devastating and far-reaching impact of hunger.

Through its mission, Santa Clara University is driven by a “commitment to fashioning a more humane, just, and sustainable world.” However, the pursuit of a hunger-free nation is more than just a noble cause that is good for the heart and soul. Ending hunger benefits every member of the community because food secure individuals are healthier, better educated, and more productive within society.

OS: How has Father Engh's call to action for SCU to become a center for the discussion of environmental justice impacted FAI?
FAI: Father Engh has brought greater focus on sustainability, which is not just environmental, but social and economic as well. While most of our events are aligned with his call to action, I believe our February 16th event, Food for Thought: Pesticide Poisoning Among Farmworkers, most exemplifies Santa Clara University's commitment to both sustainability and social justice. Attorney Michael Marsh with the California Rural Legal Assistance will discuss the health impacts that pesticides have on farmworkers and their families. Beyond the concern about how pesticide use is bad for the environment and bad for consumers who may ingest residue left on their produce, this event will make clear that our decisions as consumers have a very real impact on the health and well being of people in our communities. This event is an opportunity to show a connection between the choice a consumer makes at the grocery store and the impact that choice makes on the life of another fellow human being, which makes buying organic strawberries, for example, a small but not insignificant act of social justice.

OS: How can students interested in FAI, but not in the pathway become involved with some of the institute's initiatives?
FAI: The best way to get involved with FAI is to attend our events! We are always looking for ideas for new events, so if students want to bring a particular speaker to campus next year or if they'd like to see us cover a particular topic, let me know. We're already planning for next year's event calendar.

Visit FAI's website to learn more about the Food, Hunger, Poverty and Enviornment Pathway and the institute's awesome upcoming events.

- Emily Orbanek, '11, Sustainability Intern

Tags: Curriculum, Education and Research, Environmental Justice, Food, Profiles



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