A generous investment from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation of Battle Creek, Mich. is helping the Southwest Center of the University of Arizona's College of Social and Behavioral Sciences create an endowed faculty chair to lead its new Sustainable Food Systems Program in Southwest Borderlands Food and Water Security.
The $1,575,000 grant will enable the Southwest Center to focus on assessing transborder food systems and to effect positive change that will benefit low-income children in the Southwest Borderlands. Specific initiatives aim to reduce the high rates of childhood food insecurity, outright hunger, arrested development, and nutrition-related diseases among multicultural communities in borderlands states.
The program may be among the first to link water and food insecurity with climate change, children's health to borderland environmental health, and to address the concepts of both rural and urban "food deserts" that are found in communities where affordable, healthy, fresh food is both expensive and difficult to obtain. In addition, it has the potential to make significant contributions to regional social, environmental and economic well-being.
The new program is ideally situated at the UA, from its distinguished academic presence in the Southwest, to the University's widely available and recognized research and expertise in water and agricultural issues, climate change and child health.
Gary Nabhan, a research social scientist in the Southwest Center, has been named the W.K. Kellogg Foundation Endowed Chair in Southwest Borderlands Food and Water Security.
Nabhan holds two degrees from the UA – a master's in plant sciences and a doctorate in arid lands resource sciences. He has received numerous academic awards, including a MacArthur "genius" award, a Lannan Literary Award, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society for Conservation Biology and a Quivira Coalition award for excellence in science.
"Gary has built his career on a deep knowledge of borderlands foodways, ethnobotany and the ways in which culture, food and the environment intersect," said Joseph Wilder, director of the Southwest Center. "With the Kellogg Foundation award, Gary's proven record of community-driven research will find renewed expression with new resources to support students, publication, curriculum, and community-building and engagement."
Faculty members and students from a variety of disciplines at the UA are involved in the effort aimed at addressing food security in the borderlands states.
"The Southwest Center has been working on issues regarding cross-border water and food flows for some time, documenting our collective heritage in this binational multicultural region," Nabhan said. "Now we hope to put this knowledge into practice so that we can help reduce the number of borderland residents, especially children, impacted by water scarcity and food insecurity."
The Southwest Center is an academic unit of the UA that initiates, facilitates and encourages research, publication and public outreach among Southwest scholars, institutes and departments linked historically, geographically and intellectually to the greater Southwest (encompassing northwestern Mexico).
The UA Foundation is a nonprofit corporation dedicated to advancing the UA. Managing an existing asset base of more than $650 million, the UA Foundation has helped generate more than $2 billion in private funding to support the University.
The W.K. Kellogg Foundation, established in 1930, supports children, families and communities as they strengthen and create conditions that propel vulnerable children to achieve success as individuals and as contributors to the larger community and society. Grants are concentrated in the U.S., Latin America and the Caribbean, and southern Africa.