Executive Content Editor
While student publications around California extensively cover student food insecurity, agricultural innovation, and food reviews, no one does it as religiously as the UC Food Observer does.
The self-described “daily serving of must-read news from the world of food” draws attention to research and policy throughout the UC system that concerns how students, faculty, and staff eat. The UC Food Observer’s website is flush with articles about anything and everything agriculture and nutrition related, from sustainability to recipes.
Editor Rose Hayden-Smith finds that having a curated space for food and only food makes it easier for the community to get involved.
“We’re all seeing increasing engagement by students around food systems issues. Students ’get’ the way that food intersects with major social issues,” Hayden-Smith wrote in an email to The Bottom Line. “They are engaging with these issues at different places and from a range of perspectives and approaches. That’s incredibly heartening and I think it bodes well for the future of the food system and our democracy.”
With over 800 articles written over its two-year span, thousands of their followers on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have found the UC Office of the President-funded blog useful. As an arm of the UC Global Food Initiative, which studies how to eliminate hunger around the world, the UC Food Observer functions as a megaphone for what UC researchers are working on.
To Hayden-Smith, the UC Food Observer filled a niche where readers could connect the dots between what’s on their plate and the UC community behind it. In a post commemorating its first anniversary in 2016, she thanked the public for following along with efforts to “start conversations” about food.
“The food system is a large and diverse space, not only in terms of the physical landscapes the work occupies, but in terms of the social space it claims,” she wrote in a blog post. “We’re glad to be here.”
As a Ph.D. student in history at the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2010, Hayden-Smith published a dissertation titled “Sowing the Seeds of Victory: National Wartime Gardening Programs in the United States During World War I.” She continued to work in both the public and private sectors in technology, sustainability, and food access.
Hayden-Smith has returned to her alma mater in writing, featuring and interviewing UCSB food pioneers like the UCSB Soup Guys and campus efforts to eat healthier.
“Closer to home, as an alum of UCSB and a food systems practitioner, I’m excited to see all the food work being done at UCSB and the remarkable leadership around that work,” Hayden-Smith wrote. “It’s impressive.”
As for what’s next, Hayden-Smith and assistant editor Teresa O’Connor want to continue to chart the accomplishments of UC researchers. Over the next few years, they will discuss how national issues could play a key role in shaping the conversation around eating.
“We are in an uncertain time right now, with a new administration that will likely take a different course on food and agriculture,” Hayden-Smith wrote. “I’m not sure what’s going to happen, but we are already seeing changes in terms of some public information being censored.”
However, this has yet to stop the two-person UC Food Observer team from covering one of the things the UC does best: research.
“I’m also constantly amazed by the local to global impact of the research being done at UC,” Hayden-Smith wrote. “That work involves projects and knowledge being generated in the heart of California communities… and across the globe. The science and research at UC has global implications.”