Student-run project attempts to match food waste with hunger – from the California Aggie

Volunteers and clients at a food giveaway project at the Davis Night Market.

By Sneha Ramachandran

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) found in 2010 that the U.S. wastes approximately 30-40 percent of its food supply, equaling almost 133 billion pounds of food. It is also estimated that 40 million people in the US are food insecure, meaning 1 in 8 Americans struggle to find access to nutritious and sustainable food. 

Yet another statistic that might hit close to home for many is Feeding America’s estimate that approximately 28,320 people are food insecure within Yolo County.

To combat these figures, a group of Davis graduate students founded the Davis Night Market, a weekly gathering in Central Park that attempts to reduce food insecurity and waste in Yolo County by collecting donations of leftover food from local restaurants. 

The market started late last Spring 2019, and since then it has welcomed hundreds of community members. Each Tuesday at 9:30 p.m., volunteers unload a variety of donated food from Davis restaurants onto the picnic tables in Central Park for the community to enjoy. In addition to free food, there is also different music and entertainment each week. The event runs until all the food is gone — until roughly 11 p.m. 

Hannah Yu, a fourth-year economics and communications double major, does project management for the night market and oversees its outreach efforts. She explained the vision for the market in a few concise words. 

“Our whole goal was to make sure that nobody goes to bed hungry,” Yu said. “We wanted to do our best to reduce food waste and feed people in need or those who are food insecure. As a whole, we generally tend to waste a lot of food and restaurants especially are always throwing away food that could easily go to people in need instead of making its way into the trash.”

When the project first began, volunteers reached out to local restaurants and asked for food donations and leftovers after hours. So far, the market has acquired seven vendors including ChickPeas, Upper Crust Baking, Dickey’s, Village Bakery, the Food Co-op, the Farmers Kitchen Cafe and the Barista Brew. 

“It’s really heartwarming to see how much the community wants to give back,” Yu said. “I’m from L.A. and I’m not used to seeing that. It’s really awesome to see how the people in Davis want to help each other out.”

Although the gathering aims to provide support to those who struggle with food insecurity, the market still encourages anyone in the community to come by for free food and good company. 

“We want the entire Davis community to feel welcomed and join us,” Yu said. “When we first started the project, our goal was to address the food insecurity problems not only among the homeless population in Davis, but also the students of UC Davis. We have had a lot of students come by and tell us how grateful they were because they don’t feel comfortable going to foodbanks and I am so grateful that they feel comfortable enough to come to the market and not feel stigmatized.” 

Yu mentioned that Upper Crust Baking was one of the first restaurants to donate to the market even before it was recognized as a community event. The Upper Crust owner and manager, Lorin Kalisky, explained why the restaurant chose to donate their baked goods to the night market. 

“We are happy to donate goods to the Davis Night Market and many other food organizations that help feed people that are food insecure,” Kalisky said. “We have a lot of bread and other baked goods that wouldn’t necessarily go to waste, but would be left over or get old, and we try to waste as little food as possible.” 

Kalisky also said that many of the same individuals associated with the market are involved in other “organizations and initiatives in town trying to alleviate food insecurity.” 

“We want to help nonprofits and charity organizations by donating or sponsoring them,” Kalisky said. “We try to be a very active participant in the Davis community and we are always happy to do what we can to support noble causes.”

Sixth-year ecology graduate student Ernst Oenhinger is one of the founding members of the Davis Night Market and has worked on many other on-campus food sustainability projects including the Freedge and the Food Recovery Network. Oenhinger detailed how the market has tried to reach all members of the community, regardless of socioeconomic background. 

“There are several components that we wanted the DNM to address: one was to reduce food waste and food insecurity, but we also wanted to incorporate a social aspect by involving the community through music and hanging out and interacting with one another,” Oenhinger said. “I think that is what kind of brings it all together.”  

In addition to alleviating food insecurity in Davis, the night market also aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Rather than using a car to transport donated goods, the organization uses bike trailers. 

“We try to at least have one trailer for each restaurant,” Oenhinger said. “The trailers usually have some cool LED lights with the Davis Night Market logo as well as a boombox to play music and keep things fun.”

Moving forward, Oenhinger hopes to see more restaurants donate to the program, with a possibility of designating an additional day of the week to hold the market on. He also expressed his hopes for the project on a larger scale.

“We definitely want to have a model that is copyable by any other community,” Oenhinger said. “This is not something that will work in every city, but we want to make it as adaptable as possible. Our goal is to make a platform that is easy to copy — we want to have everything, from how to make the signs to the proper way to ask restaurants for help on a website or google folder that can be accessed by anyone.”

Read more about this story in the California Aggie

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“Growing Together” – CDFA working with farmers, ranchers at Latino Farmer Conference

Photo of Rodrigo Chipres (CDFA) behind a table full of printed materials regarding the State Organic Program, with two women holding copies of the materials and speaking with him from across the table.
Rodrigo Chipres with the CDFA Inspection Services Division shares information about the Produce Safety Program and the inspection process.

With the theme of “Growing Together,” California’s 5th annual Latino Farmer Conference is being held today in Tulare at the International AgriCenter.

More than 300 farmers and ranchers are in attendance, along with CDFA’s Office of Environmental Farming and Innovation (OEFI), Inspection Services Division, CalCannabis Cultivation Licensing Division, Animal Health and Food Safety Services Division and Marketing Division have representatives on-hand. The conference is hosted by the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and it’s open to all farmers and ranchers.

Photograph of Michael Wolff (CDFA) presenting in front of a theater-style room full of farmers and ranchers.
Michael Wolff with the Office of Environmental Farming and Innovation presents at the 5th annual Latino Farmer Conference about CDFA’s healthy soils, irrigation efficiency, dairy digesters, and alternative manure management.
Photo of Georgia Henry (CDFA) pointing out materials on an exhibit hall table, flanked by banners for the state's CalCannabis licensing program.
Georgia Henry with the CalCannabis Cultivation Licensing Division meets with farmers and ranchers at the 5th Annual Latino Farmer Conference in Tulare.
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World’s first true red spinach variety released by USDA

From Morning Ag Clips

USDA Red, the world’s first true red spinach variety has been developed and released by the Agricultural Research Service.

Spinach has always been known as a green leafy vegetable. There are leafy vegetables often called red spinach. But these are actually red-leaf amaranths (Amaranthus spp.) or other plants such as Red Goosefoot (Blitum rubrum), not true spinach (Spinacia oleracea). There are currently some true ”red” spinaches on the market, but the red color is limited to the veins of the leaves. The red-veined spinach variety Bordeaux is a parent of USDA Red.

Spinach consumption (and production) in the United States dropped from 2.3 pounds per person to 1.6 pounds in 2006 following an Escherichia coli outbreak in 2006, and it has never fully recovered.

“A true red spinach like USDA Red will bring excitement to the spinach market and could help attract people back to eating spinach. It can be used as baby or ”teen” leaf in salad bags, as bunched products, and in spring mixes for fresh-market consumption. The red color in spring mixes is currently provided by red lettuce, radicchio or chard. Red spinach will give processors another choice,” said ARS research geneticist Beiquan Mou, who developed the new variety. Mou is with the Crop Improvement and Protection Research Unit in Salinas, California. USDA Red spinach also works frozen or canned.

Spinach is one of the most desirable leafy vegetables with high levels of beta-carotene (provitamin A), lutein, folate, vitamin C, calcium, iron, phosphorus, and potassium.

The red color of USDA Red comes from the phytonutrient betacyanin rather than the more common anthocyanin. Betacyanin is a potent antioxidant that has been shown to significantly reduce oxidative stress in patients and may even help in preventing chronic pathologies, inflammation, and cancer, according to the scientific literature.

The antioxidant capacity of USDA Red was 42–53 percent higher than other spinach cultivars in five tests conducted over three years.

‘Betacyanin adds another benefit to a plant already loaded with phytonutrients, making spinach a true ”super food,”‘ Mou added.

USDA Red is a semi-flat type of spinach with a medium growth rate and semi-erect leaves. Its leaves are spade-shaped with round-pointed tips and purple-red veins and petioles. Compared with other spinach varieties, it has moderate resistance to bolting.

ARS has applied for a Plant Variety Protection certificate for USDA Red and the agency is seeking a partner to license production of seeds for the market.

“Ultimately, consumers will benefit from having access to new vegetable products that are exciting and good for them,” Mou said. This new variety is the result of traditional breeding.

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#CDFACentennial – Centennial Reflections video series with Nirmal Saini

The California Department of Food and Agriculture is celebrating its 100th anniversary as a state agency in 2019. Throughout the year this blog will feature a number of items to commemorate this milestone. Today we continue with the Centennial Reflections video series, featuring CDFA employees remembering their histories, and the agency’s.

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Secretary Ross on CA Grown tour along central coast

CDFA secretary Karen Ross (front, 5th from left) is with CA Grown this week in in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties to meet with food and lifestyle bloggers and show them some of the best of California.
One stop was at Houwelings Tomatoes in Camarillo. Houweling’s grows hothouse tomatoes using one-sixth of the water of traditional in-ground methods, with a much greater yield.
Another stop was at Good Land Organics in Goleta, grower of the first California-grown coffee.
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California dairy digester specialists win EPA’s Clean Air Technology Award

Cow Power

News Release from the Environmental Protection Agency

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has recognized the Calgren Dairy Fuels Pipeline Project and five other groups and individuals nationwide for their innovative work on clean air projects. The 2019 Clean Air Excellence Awards are given to state, local, tribal, and private sector programs that educate the public in improving air quality or reducing harmful air pollutants that threaten health and the environment.

Redding-based Calgren Renewable Fuels/Maas Energy Works was awarded the Clean Air Technology Award for the Calgren Dairy Fuels Pipeline Project. Calgren Renewable Fuels and Maas Energy Works are pioneering the development of dairy digesters throughout California’s Central Valley, leading to emission reductions of methane, carbon dioxide, ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, and other criteria pollutants by more than 130,000 MT-CO2e each year. The digester at Circle A dairy (Tulare Co ) that came online earlier this year is among more than a dozen facilities clustered together that are transforming biogas from manure lagoons into pipeline quality, renewable natural gas.  

“The Calgren Dairy Fuels Pipeline Project is transforming waste into fuel and reducing thousands of tons of harmful pollutants each year,” said Mike Stoker, EPA’s regional administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “This innovative project can serve as a model nationwide to reduce pollutants and create energy.”

Established in 2000, the Clean Air Excellence awards recognize programs and individuals that serve as pioneers in their fields, advance public understanding of air pollution, and improve air quality. 

Quote from CDFA secretary Karen Ross: “We appreciate the contributions of Calgren and Maas to climate smart agriculture in California, and it’s good to see that the EPA does, as well. Dairy digesters and the fuels pipeline are part of a critically important renewable energy approach that demonstrates how farmers are part of the climate change solution.”   

Link to EPA news release

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Join CDFA at Latino Farmer Conference

CDFA will be at the fifth annual Latino Farmer Conference on Tuesday, November 19, at the International Agri-Center in Tulare. There will be representation from several CDFA programs, including the Farmer Equity Advisor, CalCannabis, the Office of Environmental Farming and Innovation, and the divisions of Inspection Services and Animal Health and Food Safety Services.

The conference will feature two workshop sessions, a large exhibitor booth and trade show area, a farmer panel discussion, ample opportunity to network, and much more!

Registration is open to all farmers, ranchers, and agriculture organizations statewide. Please register on the conference website:

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Study – California working landscapes generate $333 billion in sales and 1.5 million jobs

Agricultural production provides the greatest number of working landscape jobs – more than 325,000 in 2018.

By Pamela Kan-Rice, UC ANR

California’s working landscape and the industries associated with agriculture and natural resources contribute significantly to the state’s economy, according to a new study by the California Community Colleges Centers of Excellence for Labor Market ResearchCalifornia Economic Summit and the University of California’s Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

“When people think of California’s economy, they think of entertainment, information technology and other industries. They may not think of working landscape,” said Glenda Humiston, University of California vice president, agriculture and natural resources. “People may be surprised to learn that California’s working landscape accounts for 6.4% of the state’s economy, supports more than 1.5 million jobs and generates $333 billion in sales.”

Results of “California’s Working Landscape: A Key Contributor to the State’s Economic Vitality” were announced by Humiston and Karen Ross, California Department of Food and Agriculture secretary, during the Ecosystem Vitality and Working Landscapes session at the California Economic Summit at the DoubleTree by Hilton Fresno Convention Center in Fresno.

To measure the economic impact of the working landscape, researchers from the Centers of Excellence, California Economic Summit and UC Agriculture and Natural Resources analyzed federal data associated with employment, earnings and sales income of the nine segments that are essential to the working landscape: agricultural distribution, agricultural production, agricultural processing, agricultural support, fishing, forestry, mining, outdoor recreation and renewable energy.

Their analysis of 2018 data from the North American Industry Classification System showed the value of the working landscape in California comes in ahead of the health care, real estate, retail and construction industries. The top five economic drivers were government (21.9%), manufacturing (10.2%), information (9.3%), professional, scientific and technical services (7.5%), and finance and insurance (6.4%).

The researchers found the nearly 70,000 businesses associated with the working landscape paid $85 billion to workers in 2018 and generated $333 billion in sales income. In terms of job numbers, earnings, sales income and number of establishments, four segments dominate: agricultural distribution, agricultural production, agricultural processing and agricultural support.

Agricultural production provides the greatest number of jobs, more than 325,000, and generates the second highest sales income, $61 billion in 2018. Although agriculture accounts for 79% of working landscape sales income, it is important to note that other working landscape segments are still sizeable when compared to the rest of the nation. 

In addition to evaluating the contribution of the industries to the state’s economy, the researchers measured the importance and impact of the nine working landscape segments by region. For example, some segments, although relatively small in terms of employment or sales income, are cornerstones of local economies and play a critical role in the livelihoods of communities.

The Los Angeles/Orange County region, the San Francisco Bay Area, and San Joaquin Valley have the greatest concentration of jobs for agricultural distribution, agricultural processing, agricultural support, mining and renewable energy. The San Joaquin Valley leads in agricultural production, followed by the Central Coast. Los Angeles/Orange County has the most forestry, fishing and outdoor recreation jobs.

This report does not include economic values for ecosystem services provided by California’s working landscape such as clean water, nutritious food and a livable climate, or intangible goods that contribute to human well-being, such as recreation, aesthetic inspiration and cultural

To read the report “California’s Working Landscape: A Key Contributor to the State’s Economic Vitality,” visit A one-page executive summary is available at

Quote from Secretary Ross: “It is gratifying to see such a comprehensive study – the first report we know of that quantifies the full economic contribution of California’s working lands. It’s much more than just agricultural production – it’s the full range of products, services and jobs, and it all starts with dedicated stewardship of lands that sustain us.”

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CDFA and the Netherlands renew commitment to cooperate on climate smart agriculture

CDFA secretary Karen Ross and Guido Landheer, assistant vice minister for agriculture in the Netherlands, met today in Fresno to renew a letter of intent for collaboration and cooperation on climate change adaptation strategies.

CDFA and the Netherlands have reaffirmed their commitment to work together on climate smart agriculture in addition to water management, ag-tech, food waste, antimicrobial resistance, and dairy farming. CDFA secretary Karen Ross and the Netherlands assistant vice minister for agriculture, Guido Landheer, met today in Fresno to sign a letter of intent renewing an international collaboration that began in 2015. The parties agreed to exchange knowledge and expertise to work towards climate smart agriculture by fostering innovation and sharing ag technology solutions.

“The ongoing collaboration that exists between the Netherlands and California speaks to our innovative spirit and shared understanding of the importance of this work,” said Secretary Ross. “In connecting from different parts of the world, we share not only what we have learned, but collectively aim for global solutions to address climate change, and ensure resiliency and agricultural sustainability worldwide.”

The signing was part of a visit from a Dutch government delegation to California’s Central Valley. The goal of this visit is to further develop ideas for a Dutch ag tech presence in California. California and Dutch stakeholders — including the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources (UCANR) and FME, the entrepreneurial organization for the Dutch technology industry — also met as part of a roundtable meeting to discuss opportunities for digitalization and automation.

In addition to Secretary Ross, the CDFA contingent included science adviser Dr. Amrith Gunasekara (far right) and deputy secretary Arturo Barajas (third from right). Collaboration between CDFA and the Netherlands, so far, has included a joint webinar and the Netherlands signing on to the Global Soil Health Challenge.

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#CDFACentennial – Centennial Reflections video series with Richard Rominger

The California Department of Food and Agriculture is celebrating its 100th anniversary as a state agency in 2019. Throughout the year this blog will feature a number of items to commemorate this milestone. Today we continue with the Centennial Reflections video series, featuring CDFA employees remembering their histories, and the agency’s.

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