Building a sustainable and food secure future

Not only is food on campus at CSULB not always nutritious, affordable, or sustainable, but more than 40% of California State University students are hungry. And this problem is only going to get worse as cost of living and studying gets more and more expensive, and wages struggle to keep up. The exciting opportunity hidden behind this challenge is that solving food insecurity in a local way could also, in turn, help create a more sustainable campus.

Kelsey Haley explains that growing food on campus could be part of a bright future that addresses both food insecurity and intersects with CSULB’s biology studies. As Kelsey’s hashtag makes clear, there’s no two ways about it: starving sucks.

Kelsey Haley - bight foresight (45). "I think growing food on campus is a great idea, and that it could reduce the amount of food insecurity in the student population. #starvingsucks #biology"

Growing food might not only provide fresh food itself, but also opportunities for biology students to learn, beautiful places for people to relax, and a sense of ownership and buy-in to one’s campus.

And As Walter Martinez Marconi points out, these ideas can lead to multiple wins. He proposes an inter-connected system, where the output of one system is the input for another, “We use the compost produced at CSULB to grow food on building roofs and feed students who are in need on campus. These students learn how to grow their own food. Extra food is given to local community shelters. #LB4Sustainability”

Reply: Walter Martinez Marconi - clever foresight (3588). "We use the compost produced at CSULB to grow food on building roofs and feed students who are in need on campus. These students learn how to grow their own food. Extra food is given to local community shelters. #LB4Sustainability"

Meanwhile, Matt is looking into the further-out future, a world in which lab-grown meat is commonplace. Might that be a tool The Beach can use to improve food security for students?

This isn’t only a sustainability issue, it will also create¬†additional food options on campus. Replies to Matt mention that this could also be an opportunity for the on-campus labs to produce the meat. Hyper-local and educational!

Dylan had a particularly popular idea, that on-campus food production could also provide credit for those involved:

Super interesting - positive imagination - Dylan H - Superb foresight (8517) "What if we got credit for on-campus food production?"

This is a perfect example of the win-win dynamic that can arise out of addressing food insecurity. Furthermore, the replies were quick to jump on the ambiguity of the word “credit” – did Dylan mean class credit or tuition credit? Hector Villanueva notes that either one would be great. This illustrates how on-campus food production could provide different benefits to different people, and still be a win all around.

But even before the chemistry students start cranking out lab-grown meat, there’s consensus that getting nutritious, healthy, and tasty food to all members of the CSULB community is vitally important. College of the Arts proposes that partnering with local food producers could lead to win-win solutions:

In response to: "#FeedLBState 1 in 4 CSU students are food insecure. What can we do to help them? What is a permanent solution to this issue?" Reply: College of the Arts - outstanding foresight (41718) "#FeedLBState is a vital issue. How can we better partner with area food producers and sellers to find win-win solutions so that they aren't throwing away and destroying food resources that our food insecure students need?"

In a possible positive future, better local partnerships could lead to more sustainable local food systems AND reduction in food insecurity. Even if it’s not the single long-term solution, it could be a part of the intersection between sustainability and food insecurity. In other words, improving one often improves the other.

Furthermore, building connections with local food makers can improve the options and food culture of the campus. As Nicole Winchester says, CSULB could even become a “foodie destination” by bringing community food sellers onto campus:

Reply: Nicole Winchester - Incredible Foresight (75135). "Many cities have done well with food truck and stalls as attractions - could the school become a foodie destination AND have great food for students by 2030 if they started offering parts of campus to food sellers from the community?"

But don’t get the idea that food trucks and stalls are just indulgent spots for so-called foodies: they actually might be part of a system of solutions for food insecurity. After all, as Betsy notes, they might provide more job opportunity for students.

Positive Imagination: Betsy - fantastic foresight (1715). "#campusdining meal carts/trucks spread out throughout campus. This capitalizes on the food truck popularity, and creates more job opportunity for students. #daf #foodtruck #diningoptions"

What all of these forward-thinking ideas point to is that a better food environment will need to address intertwined issues with multiple solutions. But the complexity of the issue might also provide chances for win-win solutions. More local food options not only creates jobs for students but creates a vibrant food culture, and increases connection to the community. Meanwhile, ideas like growing food on campus and reusing compost can make these local food producers even more sustainable and functional while also providing new ways for students to get food. “Futuristic” (but perhaps not so far off…) ideas like making lab-grown meat on campus have clear links to academics, as well developing a local campus food system.

Food insecurity and sustainability pose some tricky and complex issues – but looking at them through an inclusive, systems-focused lens shows that they’re also spaces ripe for big, multi-faceted wins.