Raising community awareness about Tucson's food waste

Raising community awareness about Tucson's food waste

Thursday, October 10, 2019

By Cristina Moraga, Project and Intern Coordinator, and Barbara Eiswerth, Executive Director, Iskashitaa Refugee Network

The Department of Nutritional Sciences (NSC) of the University of Arizona (UA) and Iskashitaa Refugee Network (IRN) work together to increase community involvement in reducing wasted food from backyards and increasing food security in the Tucson community. The Haury Program seed project helps to expand Iskashitaa’s harvesting capabilities by contacting, educating and building relationships with communities to organize bigger group harvests. The longer-term goals are to empower these neighborhoods to utilize the food resources around them, facilitate bridges between refugees and Tucson’s community, and training students to lead, be engaged and take action.

NSC interns are members of Jennifer Ravia’s Experiential Learning in Nutritional Sciences class.  Each semester six students have a variety of roles as Iskashitaa interns. Harvest interns, help in both harvest coordination, leading harvests, culling sorting fruit and learning the science and importance of composting for local food production. The harvest interns work hard to canvas communities and reach out to neighborhoods. Interns serve as educators in the role of edible tree interns, developing food information sheets, creating recipes using locally gleaned fruit, helping to complete Iskashitaa’s edible tree book, and leading monthly edible tree tours on UA campus and at the Tucson Botanical Gardens. Through these activities, the project has been able to train interns in harvesting techniques, multi-cultural food preservation techniques, identifying and explaining about local fruit trees to students and other community members, and forming partnerships with several Tucson communities.

In addition to their individual work, interns also attend and work events together such as Tucson Botanical Gardens’ Urban Garden Festival, Iskashitaa events at the Book Festival of Tucson, and Tucson Meet Yourself. Through events like these, the interns educate the public about Iskashitaa Refugee Network’s mission and talk about their roles within the organization.

"Through this experience”, commented Student A, “I’ve learned several different things about myself. I enjoy giving tours and sharing my knowledge of edible trees with the public. I learned that I grew up ignorantly unaware of the struggles that refugees have to endure as well as the impact that we can have on their lives by helping them integrate into our communities."

The NSC-IRN partnership provides students the opportunity to become better equipped to address environmental challenges especially sustain practices and to inspire community members to take action. This partnership also strengthens Iskashitaa Refugee Network, the greater Tucson community, and our local food system. The Agnese Nelms Haury Program in Environment and Social Justice seed grant supports this work to build the partnership and the extension of its work to new neighborhoods, students, and ways of collaborating.

For more information about Iskashitaa Refugee Network visit www.iskashitaa.org

For more information about the project go to our awards database.

Photo provided by Jennifer Ravia, Assistant Professor of Practice, UA Department of Nutritional Sciences