The History

The City of Riverside

The city, like the university, is striving for social, economic, and environmental health. As explained by Seizing Our Destiny Initiative, by “increasing the community’s quality of life we will fuel intelligent growth, encourage innovation, position Riverside as the location of choice for diverse and dynamic people, and attract desirable businesses and jobs to the region” (City of Riverside 17). Various programs like “Becoming a Green Machine” and “Collaborating to Build Community” fit into what the community garden will provide while promoting the “preservation, expansion and protection of our open spaces are of the utmost importance in maintaining the quality of life for Riverside residents” (GAP 13). On top of that, the city’s goals include using community based-approaches to promote healthy living and “increase availability of fresh, locally grown food” in all neighborhoods (GAP 19). The university garden creates a space for youth involvement, international engagement, community leadership development, and raising awareness.

University of CA, Riverside

According to the university’s mission statement, UC Riverside “serves the needs and enhances the quality of life of the diverse people of California, the nation and the world through knowledge” and “finding solutions to the profound challenges in education, engineering, business, healthcare, and the environment” (UC Riverside). Even before the breaking ground of the Community Garden on April 17th, 2009, there has been a growing interest within the campus and the city of Riverside around sustainability, agricultural and local food systems issues. This increased interest has been academic, entrepreneurial, and experiential in form.  In the past year, there have been several sustainability and food-related research topics under the new Undergraduate Research in the Community program and are continuing to grow. Students’ extracurricular activities continue to showcase an interest in food, health, social justice and agricultural issues in their communities and abroad.  With the announcement of the UC-wide commitment to Sustainable Practices in September 2009, on-going awareness of sustainable food issues on campus are expected to rise.

Growing Movement on Campus

UCR Dining Services’ own commitment to bring more local, organic, and socially just foods to our campus as well as raising awareness among the residents is an integral part of these continued efforts.  Dining has hosted farmers’ markets on campus and in the residential halls for the past two years with great success and interest from the student body.  They have also begun to host Meatless Mondays to help educate students on the benefits of vegetarian diets and health as well as the environmental impacts of eating meat. In October 2011, Food Day was launched throughout the UC System to increase awareness around national food issues. The development and ongoing support for a community garden is an integral part of these efforts seen throughout the country and the world. The university garden in a land grant university is an application of knowledge and a “living laboratory” for future leaders to explore and research solutions to the intersectional issues in a hands-on approach.

In Fall 2011, the Office of Sustainability was launched as part of our commitment to sustainability. The university is now a Sustainability Tracking, Assesment & Rating System (STAR) Participant as part of the AASHE program. Through this, research shows growing support from both faculty and students to engage in food system topics on an interdisciplinary approach. Already “A preliminary survey of UCR’s course offerings indicates that a range of environmental science and study topics are available to students. These classes raise awareness to issues affecting our environment.” During the Academic Year 2011- 2012, the College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences will be focusing their First Year seminar on Sustainability with its CHASS F1rst for all incoming freshmen students in the program. Below, a list of the various courses provided show the interest and possibility of using the community garden as a sustainability interdisciplinary institute for food system education, community development, and involvement by various entities in the city of Riverside.

What’s Cultivate R’Space?

The Cultivate R’Space team has taken the lead on developing a self-sustaining program by students and for students at the community garden through the mentorship of faculty, staff, administration, and community members of Riverside. The program has been running since 2010 when the community garden was still available (and is still running without it). This project has transformed, and its focus has shifted to obtaining a permanent garden location at the university that will serve as a hub from community-based research, wellness, and social justice education at UCR. We hope to increase awareness about the various social issues related to sustainability of people and the overall environment. Through dialogue, readings, films, and lectures, and garden education, we hope to promote environmental, social, and economic justice in the university by creating a credit course (198-I or PB190) that allows students to be part of a participatory active research and service learning program in Riverside.

  • Offered through the Undergraduate Research Program and the Honors Program.
  • Funded $25,000 by the Social Innovation Generation grant to study community gardens in the Riverside area with the community non-profit organization, Growcology.
  • This student-led seminar will give students a deeper understanding of our food system using an interdisciplinary, participatory and experiential framework. The students’ research will help the local community by informing groups what gardening techniques do and do not work in order to improve the city’s food system.
  • Research is currently being conducted through Undergraduate Research in the Community with faculty mentors in fields of Soil Science, Anthropology, Women Studies, Botany Science, and Political Science.
  • Currently, about 15 students are in the Urban Garden Seminar 2012 offered in spring, more than 70 signed up to receive updates, more than 200 students have been a part of the program’s events/workshops/seminars, and more than 10,000 students have been reached in Riverside.
  • Goal is to have this seminar running every quarter through the help of a community garden coordinator that can help facilitate the garden education program while faculty, students, and community organizations create seminar pertaining to social justice.

Author:

Elizabeth Tizcareño, Undergraduate Research in the Community at UCR

Sources: 

  • Community Health Profile 2008. Department of Public Health, Riverside County 2008. Print.
  • EPA. United States Environmental Protection Agency, 2011. Web. 27, October 2011.
  • Gottlieb, Robert and Anupama Joshi. Food Justice. MIT Press, 2010. Print.
  • Green Action Plan. A California, Emerald City. California Department of Conservation, 2011. Print.
  • Meconis, KD. The Local Food Environment in Riverside County, 2007: Retail Food Environment Index (RFEI) by City and Place. Riverside, CA: Riverside County Department of Public Health, Epidemiology and Program Evaluation, 2008. Print.
  • Well Program at UC Riverside

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