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Food & Agribusiness Institute

Food & Agribusiness Institute

Food & Agribusiness Blog for news, events, announcements, and more.

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  •  Hunger Week: Documentary Screening



    Make sure you don’t miss out on the first event of Santa Clara’s Hunger Week. The viewing will be of “A Place at the Table,” a documentary that focuses on poverty, hunger, and under-nutrition in America.  Shockingly, there are “50 million people in the U.S.- one in four children- don’t know where their next meal is coming from, despite our having the means to provide nutritious, affordable food for all Americans.” This documentary will open your eyes to a growing problem in the United States that needs to be dealt with now.


    Monday May 20th  at 7:00pm


    Kennedy Commons


    This is a growing problem in our country and it needs people like you to solve it. This film is inspiring and has an interesting, eye-opening message.

    It is also a way to get involved with SCU’s newest club BTGAP, Bridging the Gap to Alleviating Poverty. The club has a lot of opportunities available for its members, so get involved now!


    If you’re not already convinced to come, there will be free snacks courtesy of BTGAP.

    We hope to see you there! This is a great opportunity to learn more about current issues in the US, as well as get involved on campus in SCU’s newest club BTGAP! Make sure to spread the word about Hunger Week by adding #scuhungerweek2013 to your Instagrams/Twitter/Facebook images of the events!

  •  FAI Burma Trip Featured in Campus-Wide Newsletter


    SCU in Myanmar

    Two years ago, Americans could not visit Myanmar, the beautiful Southeast Asian country that is transitioning—with occasional setbacks and bouts of violence—from a military-ruled country to a democracy. 

    But in early September, a group of 11 Santa Clara University students responded to an invitation from the business school’s Food and Agribusiness Institute (FAI), and joined a trip to Myanmar as a way of learning up close about that country’s traditional and varied farming methods for everything from tea, rice, sugar, peanuts to grapes; its challenges to develop its agricultural industry without damaging the environment; and the threats of global warming to the country’s industrious inhabitants. 

    “We had hoped the students would be pushed out of their comfort zone to experience both the challenges and richness of life in a developing country,” said Naumes Family Professor Greg Baker, the director of FAI who also accompanied the students on the two-week trip. “When I hear students describe their experiences as transformative or life-changing, I know that we’ve been successful.”

    FAI Assistant Director Erika French-Arnold, who planned and co-chaperoned the trip, believes SCU may be the first university to take students on an immersion trip to Myanmar.

    Several  students recently shared their experience with fyi:  Garrett Jensen, a senior accounting major; Lisa McMonagle, a junior majoring in political science and environmental studies; and Nicole Orban, a junior finance major. They each marveled at the country’s beauty and how vastly different it is from America—from its pagoda-dotted landscape to its extravagantly friendly residents (some of whom had never seen an outsider before).

    “Myanmar has very little western influence,” said McMonagle. “If you visit in the future, it probably won’t be the same. We all felt we came at a very unique time.”

    Among the highlights for students was a trip to a Yangong village, which required a four-hour bus ride and a two-hour boat ride on a branch of the Irrawaddy River. They were heading to a village that had never been visited by foreigners, so some of the children had never seen people with white faces. When the SCU students arrived, the entire village welcomed the group, escorting them to a monastery, feeding them nonstop, offering them extra bedding and setting up mosquito nets.

    “We were really struck by their generosity, and we did not feel that we deserved that necessarily,” said McMonagle. “One of my friends said it made her really aware of how other people treat strangers in other parts of the world.”

    The students also visited the city of Bagan, home to thousands of pagodas and temples, and villages along the Inle Lake region, where villagers farm on unique lake gardens, floating incubators for crops like tomatoes, supported with bamboo and beds of weeds.

    The visit included many stays in monasteries; meditation with Buddhist monks; lessons in microfinance; an audience with a midwife who shared tales of NGO contraceptive workshops that didn’t quite take (think men taking birth control pills and putting condoms on fruit, as they had been shown in demonstrations); and an attempt at foot-steering a fishing boat that almost landed some students in the drink.

    The level of poverty in the area was a shock to some students. “The poverty I experienced in Burma was unlike anything I was expecting to see,” said Orban. “Before the trip, I imagined that I would come into contact with begging, homelessness, and people suffering from a lack of the necessities of life. I found the most significant poverty was a poverty of options.”

    Orban noted that many of the younger girls were excited to find husbands—and will never have the opportunity to travel or learn in a classroom. “They don't have the luxury of choosing a career path,” said Orban. “They will marry young, live life on a farm, and raise their daughters to do the same.”

    Also during their stay, the students couldn’t avoid politics and the fact that the country (called Burma by countries like America that didn’t recognize the right of the military to change the name in 1989) is still heavily influenced by the military, which gave up power in 2011.

    “All of the people we talked to were extremely honest,” said Jensen. “But they were hesitant to be honest if they were government employees.”

    The students are now taking two classes to reflect on the experience, and have become Facebook friends with an author on Burmese culture and food whom they met during a class session before the trip.

    “I think that our students gained an appreciation of how privileged they are,” said Baker. “They learned the importance of a functioning democracy, infrastructure, education, working markets, access to health care—all of the things that we take for granted.”

    Both students recalled fondly using their free time to climb to the top of a pagoda in Bagan at sunrise and sunset, where they surveyed the landscape of the entire region, with its verdant waterways, crops, and temples and pagodas “popping out everywhere,” said McMonagle.

    “We were seeing this ancient, ancient place,” she said. “It was just beautiful.”

  •  Hunger Action Summit- January 24th, 2014!

    Please join the Food and Agribusiness Institute and Second Harvest Food Bank for the 6th Annual Hunger Action Summit. The forum will take place on January 24th, 2014 from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. in Locatelli Center on the Santa Clara University campus.

    Our keynote speaker this year will be Dr. Deborah A. Frank, the Founder and Principal Investigator of Children’s HealthWatch. Her research
    interests include examining cumulative risk factors in children’s household, such as food, energy, and
    housing insecurity and their impact on children’s health and development. Dr. Frank will discuss the impact of hunger on children.

    We look forward to seeing you there!

  •  FAI visits Ingomar Packing Plant

    Seven students and alumni from the Food and Agribusiness Institute visited Ingomar Packing Company on August 9th to learn about the tomato processing industry from FAI alumnus and board member, and Ingomar CEO, Greg Pruett. Greg started by giving us a history of the company and some information about their current acreage and production. He also answered questions ranging from issues the company is facing, such as water shortages in the Central Valley, to sustainability and distribution. After donning hardhats and ear plugs, Greg led the group on a tour that began with ripe tomatoes and concluded with tomato paste and canned tomatoes.

    FAI specialization student Satpaul Bains said, "The tour shows how many processes there are to create a product from a raw material, and it allowed students to learn the difficulties in competing with other competitors offering commodities. This trip also gave us the opportunity to actually see the process that creates value for the producer and the technology that is utilized to create a consistent product while trying to gain economies of scale."

    Ingomar produces three types of tomato products: hot break tomato paste, which includes concentrated crushed tomato paste, cold break tomato paste, and aseptic diced tomatoes in juice. Greg gave students an extensive tour of his production facility and explained how tomatoes are selected for each product, the grade necessary for each product and the machinery used for each part of the process. Students watched as tomatoes were sorted, both by machine and by hand, the heating process to strip the tomatoes of their skins and seeds and the process of packaging and canning the tomatoes or paste to be distributed to companies around the country. Mahbod Parvar, a recent alumnus of FAI, said "Living in a city, we often lose sight of where our foods come from and how they get made. Visiting the Ingomar factory in Los Banos provided a new perspective on how tomato paste is made, packaged, and shipped." 

    FAI Network President Ray Shady, who arranged the tour for the students, remarked:  "In addition to being an enormous operation, Ingomar's attention to quality, emphasis on efficiency and process control were also very impressive.  Greg was a welcoming host and generously took additional time out of his day to take us through parts of the plant not on a traditional tour."

    Greg demonstrated how a chemist in a lab tests samples regularly to ensure the quality of the product and all of the students were able to try the still-warm sample of tomato paste.

    Zach Wise, an FAI specialization student and member of the winning IFAMA case study competition team said: “The tour of the Ingomar Packing tomato plant was an eye opening experience. The sheer size and incredible efficiency of the plant was very impressive. For someone interested in the food and agribusiness industry, it’s always interesting to see how the products behind the well-known brands are really produced. Greg was a wonderful host, and was very generous with his time and knowledge of the industry. Overall, it was a great experience."

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