The California Higher Education Food Summit, an intercollegiate event designed to spark discussion on food justice within the UC system, will be hosted on campus from Friday through Sunday this weekend.

The conference invites students to join staff, faculty and other interested individuals from across the state to discuss issues regarding food access, food security and food justice. The summit will also include various food-related workshops and activities as well as lectures by speakers such as food justice advocate Nikki Silvestri and renowned chef Crystal DeLongpré, also known as Food Network’s Chef Pink. The event will also feature a screening of “Occupy the Farm,” a documentary following food justice advocates.

According to Isla Vista Food Co-Op General Manager Melissa Cohen, the summit will allow attendees to become exposed to new ideas, solutions and innovations regarding food distribution and consumption that can prompt others to make positive impacts on the current food system.

“People are bringing their expertise from projects they’re working on in their own communities and campuses outward so that kind of information can be shared and modeled,” Cohen said. “Because the best thing that can happen in a situation like this is people present projects that can be replicated.”

According to Tim Galarneau, a member of the advisory board at Real Food Challenge, which is a campaign to shift the way universities source food, the summit is designed to be all-inclusive and allow all attendees to both learn and participate.

“I’m really excited to see a cross section of students, staff/faculty, and community partners coming together on MLK weekend to engage in conversations and planning toward bridging access, equity, and justice in our food system,” Galarneau said in an email.

Associated Students Food Bank Chair and event organizer Katie Freeze said she is looking forward to listening to seasoned chefs and food advocates impart their wisdom upon event attendees.
“Summit participants will have the opportunity to enjoy meals prepared by local chefs, participate in educational workshops and listen to inspirational keynote speakers,” Freeze said.

The summit will also include a series of talks and workshops designed to help attendees learn more about the food they eat, where it comes from and how to protect and conserve food resources. Workshops such as “Santa Barbara County Food Action Plan and Food Justice: Health, Access, Environment, Labor,” will take place in classrooms on the first floor of the UCen.

Freeze said she hopes the summit will bring student attention to issues regarding the nation’s currently “broken” food system.

“The summit’s primary mission is to start a dialogue surrounding food justice and food security in the UC community,” Freeze said, “and to help students realize the role they play in helping to fix our broken food system on a local and statewide level.”

Keynote speaker Silvestri, who in addition to co-founding food justice advocacy campaign Live Real and directing national clean energy economy organization Green For All also developed a course curriculum for the UC system, has advocated statewide for environmental justice and political ecology programs for the last ten years. Cohen said she is particularly looking forward to the opportunity to hear Silvestri speak and hopes students will take advantage of the opportunity as well.

“Nikki Silvestri is a huge person who influences me, helping me feel comfortable to have the right lexicon — the right words and the right knowledge — for how to talk about … these issues,” Cohen said.