The University of New Mexico Sustainability Studies Program has received a $1.5 million grant for an endowed chair in sustainable environmental food systems and $150,000 in start-up funds from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. The endowment will support education that increases the well-being of students and citizens by advancing environmental science and social equity applied to the development of local food systems.

According Bruce Milne, the new chair-holder and director of the Sustainability Studies Program, this project puts students on career paths to provide the community with organic, local food, green buildings, urban farms, clean energy, better nutrition and better health. Students will work with community groups using media arts, ecology and community engagement.

“New Mexico faces a very high rate of food insecurity,” Milne said. “Developing local, sustainable and environmentally friendly food systems will reduce this risk. My students implement classroom knowledge in local communities. They will apply this experience in their future careers.”

The program brings together students, faculty and communities to foster discovery, technological developments and societal benefits though teaching, innovation and problem solving. Outreach and research will focus on local foodsheds as integrated systems of land, skill, regional plant varieties, infrastructure and markets. Together, education and outreach will increase foodshed performance in backyards, neighborhoods, community farms, native villages, the state and the region encompassing NM, Arizona and Colorado.

Milne will lead on- and off-campus activities to develop the local foodshed through classroom teaching and new courses about growers’ markets, agroecology and the NM foodshed. Student projects with faculty mentors will include assessments of foodshed capacity, crop diversity and environmental potential. Other student projects include the LOBO Growers’ Market, held 10 times on campus since 2007.

New Mexico celebrates a unique multicultural agricultural heritage, abundant land, over 800 acequias, and a growing demand for locally produced, organic food. Clean energy goes hand in hand with food production. “Food production and consumption tie humans to land, water, energy and culture,” Milne said. “A sustainable approach concerns the wellbeing of the environment now and for future generations.”

UNM graduates are becoming leaders in clean energy and local food projects. UNM’s degree in sustainability studies gives students from all sectors the scope to apply their education professionally as leaders in all aspects of the green economy.

The UNM project is one of only six similar endowed chairs funded by the W. K. Kellogg Foundation in the U.S., and this funding will exist in perpetuity. The Kellogg project fits UNM’s mission to serve as NM’s flagship institution of higher learning and to actively support social, cultural and economic development in NM communities.

For further information about contributing to sustainability, local food production, research and education or other UNM programs, visit unmfund.org.