Meet our 2021-22 Global Food Initiative (GFI) fellows! The UC GFI is a system-wide effort across all University of California campuses to identify innovative best practices targeting all aspects of local and global food systems. The initiative is in place to develop, demonstrate, and export solutions tackling food security, health, and sustainability. On UCSB’s campus, students apply each year to take on projects to improve food systems. Through their passion and hard work, our campus has the opportunity to improve food security, health, and sustainability for our community.
Isabella Millet (she/her) is a second-year History of Public Policy and CCS Art Double Major. During her gap year, she worked with food banks in the midwest, which sparked her interest in the food system and food justice work. Last summer, she was able to work as a logistics coordinator for the Santa Barbara County Food Bank and learned more about the food access issues specific to Santa Barbara, and this opportunity solidified her interest in food justice. When she saw the opportunity to be a GFI fellow and continue to support activism and leadership in this field, as well as get connected for her first year on campus, she knew she had to apply to be a GFI fellow. Her role is different from the typical experience of a GFI fellow; she is not a project-based fellow. Instead of leading independent research or designing a community campaign, she works to support existing projects working towards equitable food systems on campus. This can include developing coalitions and facilitating collaborations, as well as making sure student activists and leaders are aware of the resources available to support them and their work. She also helps to develop channels of communication between students and administration. She really enjoys this position because of its community-oriented nature. This is her first year on campus, so having a fellowship that encourages the development of community and facilitates connection with the amazing activism and leadership on campus has been so valuable to her experience as a student. It is also great to be part of a community working on such an important issue. She would love to encourage anyone who is working on a food access/basic needs project to reach out—she might be able to connect you to some new community members or campus resources!
Cameran Bahnsen (she/her) is a 2nd-year transfer student pursuing a B.S. in Environmental Studies with an American Indian and Indigenous Studies minor. She is from the Assiniboine tribe in Fort Peck, Montana. She got involved as a GFI Fellow through her connections with the American Indian and Indigenous Student Association (AIISA). She has always been interested in Indigenous food sovereignty and Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) and wanted the opportunity to work within the UCSB Sustainability Office to uplift Indigenous food and environmental matters. Her project works with the American Indian and Indigenous Student Association (AIISA), American Indian and Indigenous Garden Alliance (AIIGA), Environmental Studies Department, and other campus communities in order to increase Indigenous food sovereignty, TEK, and cultural connection efforts via workshops, classes, and community time in the "3-Sisters & 4-Directions" Indigenous garden. This ultimately aims to improve the well-being of our Native community and promote Indigenous culture and history with the broader campus community in relation to environmental & food wellness. What she enjoys most about being a GFI Fellow is the built-in community. She feels incredibly supported by the Sustainability Office, as well as the broader University of California GFI community.
Varun Iyer (he/him) is a fourth-year Philosophy and Physics major. He was previously involved with Health, Environment and Animal Rights (HEAR), UCSB's animal rights and veganism club. One of the former members of the club had been a GFI Fellow and said that it had enabled him to take action, so Varun thought it would be a good opportunity for him as well. Right now, he is working on two projects under his advisor, Professor David Cleveland. The first project has to do with implementing and studying interventions to increase plant-based food choice in a conference setting. This study is a collaboration with other researchers at UCLA and several other schools. The second project is in collaboration with students from the Environmental Leadership Incubator and HEAR. They are working with UCSB HDAE to help promote vegan and vegetarian options at the dining halls and expand the options that are available. For Varun, having regular one-hour meetings with his advisor is one of the most important aspects of being a GFI fellow. He has great love and passion for the work that he does and these regular meetings help motivate him to make progress on his projects.