Trailblazing solutions to global food crisis

Kelly Dumke

At 29, Kelly Dumke is already working on the front lines in communities in L.A. County against a well-known and entrenched enemy. She’s aiming to keep nearly 1 million children from becoming obese in early childhood. The 2009 UCLA graduate is the assistant director for Choose Health LA Kids, a program that was designed and implemented by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and funded by First 5 LA.

Dumke is working with researchers at UCLA to scale up an evidence-based curriculum that links nutrition education and parenting skills. She also leads an interdepartmental task force between the Department of Public Health and Department of Children and Family Services to develop ways to address high rates of child obesity in families within the child welfare system.

Dumke, who graduated from UCLA in 2009, is among six students and alumni who have been selected by the University of California to receive its inaugural Global Food Initiative 30 Under 30 Awards. The awards honor 30 young pioneers and innovators trailblazing to solve the global food crisis by making extraordinary contributions in a wide array of food-related fields.

The 30 Under 30 Awards recognize individuals, both inside and outside the UC system, who are doing outstanding work in food production, food access and security, food sourcing, food education and communication, and food policy and public impact. The 30 honorees were selected by a committee of industry leaders and influential voices in the food movement, both from within the UC system and in the wider world.

The Global Food Initiative was launched by UC President Janet Napolitano in 2014 to develop, demonstrate and export solutions that help put the world on a path to sustainably and nutritiously feeding itself.  She created the awards to highlight and amplify the good work being done by 30 young leaders and further encourage dialogue about food education, access and security, health and sustainability.

“Today we honor 30 young people who have devoted their lives to addressing some of the most important topics of our day,” Napolitano said. “Food is at the heart of issues related to sustainability, climate security and healthy communities.”

The other five UCLA-affiliated winners are:

  • Emilie Aguirre, 29 — As a research and policy fellow at the Resnick Program for Food Law and Policy at UCLA Law, Aguirre advances solutions for the food system, teaches food law and has helped develop and launch a free legal intake and referral service for nonprofits and small businesses working to improve healthy food access and sustainable production.
  • Nandeet Mehta, 22 — An undergraduate, Mehta is the founder and CEO of Pyur Solutions, a company that develops nontoxic, biodegradable, plant-based pesticides, herbicides and insecticides for agriculture. This past fall, Mehta co-founded the Student Nutrition and Body Image Awareness Campaign (SNAC), a student nutrition advocacy group at UCLA.
  • Esther Park, 27 — Park, who graduated in 2010, is one of the creators of the Los Angeles Food Policy Council’s Healthy Neighborhood Market Network, a groundbreaking initiative to build the leadership and business acumen of immigrant business owners in low-income communities to help them bring fresher, more nutritious food to their customers.
  • Rachel Sumekh, 24 — Sumekh co-founded Swipe Out Hunger as a UCLA student and is now a 2012 graduate and executive director of the organization, which allows college students to donate excess dollars on their meal plan to fellow students in need. The organization now has chapters on four UC campuses with plans to expand to all nine UC undergraduate campuses. It has served 1.2 million meals across the country.
  • Joe Viana, 28 - A graduate student researcher, Viana, in close collaboration with UCLA researchers and nutritionists and UCLA's Healthy Campus Initiative, implemented an evidence-based trial of healthier vending machines at UCLA, designed to increase sales of healthier items without compromising the bottom-line revenue from more than 30 trial machines. Viana’s work has triggered a review of UC-wide policies around vending, and spurred discussion around healthy vending at the national level with Partnership for a Healthier America, which works with the private sector and Michelle Obama to make healthier choices easier.

For more on all 30 of the winners, click here and on their photos.

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