UC Davis Scholars Receive $225K for ‘Food Justice’ Seminar
Open hands with the right painted yellow and the left painted green with three carrots being displayed. .
(Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

A team of UC Davis scholars and professors have secured $225,000 in grant funding for Thinking Food @ the Intersections, a seminar focused on exploring the narratives and systems that contribute to food inequity in the U.S. The seminar, planned for the 2024-2025 academic year, will have dual goals of understanding the complexities of food justice through a humanities framework as well as finding new potential solutions.  

"It's essential to not only address tangible inequalities within the food system but also to confront the immaterial and symbolic aspects that perpetuate these disparities,” said Daniela Gutiérrez-Flores, assistant professor of Spanish at UC Davis and a principal investigator on the project proposal. “Our seminar stems from an urgent need to consider how the systemic and structural roots of food inequity are embedded in cultural histories, present realities and public imagination." 

In addition to Gutiérrez-Flores, the interdisciplinary group of scholars include: 

  • Charlotte Biltekoff, associate professor of American Studies and Food Science and Technology; 

  • Erica Kohl-Arenas, associate professor in American Studies and faculty director of Imagining America: Artists and Scholars in Public Life 

  • Kimberly Nettles-Barcelón, associate professor of African American & African Studies;  

  • Pierpaolo Polzonetti, Jan and Beta Popper Professor of Music; and  

  • Audrey Russek, a food and wine archivist at the UC Davis Library. 

The team’s seminar proposal recently won the support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for a John E. Sawyer Seminar on the Comparative Study of Cultures. The Mellon Foundation’s Sawyer Seminars were established in 1994 to provide support for comparative research on the historical and cultural sources of contemporary developments. 

Thinking Food @ the Intersections will feature quarterly colloquiums as well as scholarly and art events throughout the year focused on three themes: Reimagining the Past through Food Justice (Fall 2024), Reclaiming Our Food Narratives as a Social Justice Practice (Winter 2025) and Imagining and Enacting Just Food Futures (Spring 2025). 

The seminar series will “explore how food justice discourses and actions can be more solidly grounded on a holistic understanding of food justice not merely as a struggle to attain bodily nourishment, but to see food as a fundamental component of human culture and identity,” according to the team’s proposal. 

“Putting insights from a range of humanistic disciplines into conversation with the work of advocates, artists, chefs, and food chain workers of all kinds can help us understand the layered meanings, intersectional identities, and social and political aspirations that shape present struggles for and manifestations of food justice,” the team said.  

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