The UC San Diego Global Health Program, Students for Global Health, Global Forum and the Global Health Institute co-hosted the Winter Quarterly Conversation in Global Health on the topic of Food Insecurity: Local and Global Perspectives on Wednesday, February 15th at the Great Hall, UC San Diego.   Attendance at the event was incredible, with students from all colleges and a variety of majors gathering together to address the common issue of hunger and malnutrition.

Triton Pantry, Feeding America and Food Recovery Network participated in the opening reception portion of the event with their representatives providing a wealth of knowledge and resources to our UC San Diego students.  All three organizations presently have various volunteer opportunities open for students to get involved in eliminating food insecurity; please visit their websites to learn more!

Dr. Nancy Postero, UC San Diego Professor of Anthropology, served as the event’s master of ceremonies and led the Question & Answer session, engaging the audience with provoking questions regarding the biggest obstacles and common misconceptions addressing food insecurity.  


Dr. Hanna Garth, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at UC San Diego, who currently is conducting active food insecurity related research projects in both Cuba and Los Angeles, shared that we must be aware of how our global food system leaves us vulnerable.  She spoke of the unfortunate development of international organizations that underlie our food system, revealing the harsh reality of changes in attitudes and practices in agriculture. For example, she shared that there is a disheartening change in food policies to support overproduction of food and how structural adjustment policies have attached conditions to their loans that undercut local farmers and that do not support developing countries.  

Our next speaker, Kelcey Ellis, Director of Programs at Feeding San Diego, who has extensive experience in hunger-relief and health initiatives, called us to define the characteristics of who we believed would be food insecure.  She spoke of just how common hunger and malnutrition are in our local community. In fact she shared that 1 in 8 adults, and 1 in 5 children are food insecure in San Diego, and that many working and military families are surprisingly amongst this population.  Kelcey suggested that we become active in our endeavors to eliminate food insecurity by donating money, volunteering, advocating and being understanding of people who go through food insecurity.  She also encouraged us to take the extra step by reaching out and informing our local and state level policymakers of community concerns.

The last presenter, Dr. Pascale Joassart-Marcelli, San Diego State Professor of Geography, who teaches courses on the geography of food and food justice and who is currently leading the “Food, Ethnicity and Place Project” in San Diego, shared her extensive “mixed methods study” research and shared her observations of how people navigate food deserts.  She emphasized local desert areas that are seen as inherently problematic and pathological, with the factors of investment patterns, suburbanization, and white flight all contributing to the problem.  She shared that there are many misconceptions of food desert areas including the fact that many have been falsely accused of only selling non-nutritious, empty calorie foods (sugar and soda).  Another misconception is that studies disregard ethnic food markets as nutritious food retailers; however, in reality these markets actuality do provide many nutritious options like fruits and vegetables.

The evening concluded with a Question & Answer session guided by Dr. Nancy Postero. Some of the questions that were contemplated were:

o   How much malnutrition have you seen in SD?

o   How can we resist large organizations at the center of our food system while meeting demand for food?

o   What are some of the culturally appropriate nutritious foods and did you do economic analysis of the food at ethnic markets?

We thank all who were able to attend and participate in our Winter Quarterly Conversation. We hope to see you at the next Quarterly Conversation in Global Health on Health and Climate Change that will take place on April 19th, 2017 in the Great Hall!