Food For Thought

Navina Khanna, M.S. '07, won the Community Food Leadership Award from the James Beard Foundation. (John Stumbos | UC Davis)
Navina Khanna, M.S. '07, won the Community Food Leadership Award from the James Beard Foundation. (John Stumbos | UC Davis)

Alumna blazes trail for food justice in California.

At the forefront of the food justice movement, trailblazer Navina Khanna (M.S., '07, International Agricultural Development) is working hard to ensure her community — and others throughout the U.S. — have access to proper nourishment. Her goal: an equal and just food system.

Khanna's interest in agriculture began as a 17-year-old high school student in India. "I had the opportunity to go on a three-week wilderness trip with an ecology class where we discussed how our relationship with nature changed when we decided to domesticate plants and animals," said Khanna. It was then that she began to form questions about how and why certain plants were grown and produced as food for human consumption. Those early questions about agriculture, plants, and food led Khanna to her life-long passion in the studies of international agriculture and food justice.

"Everybody should have both the rights and the means to produce or procure, prepare and to share food that is good for people and good for the planet."

Once Khanna received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Hampshire College, she began to prepare for graduate school. Looking for a graduate program that was strong in international agriculture and one that could provide hands-on experience, she chose UC Davis. She did research and assisted in creating curricula that helped lead to the development of a new undergraduate major in sustainable agriculture and food systems. Khanna later decided to use this research as her master's thesis project.

After graduation, Khanna moved to Oakland and cofounded and directed Live Real, a national initiative that helps youth reshape their food systems. She is also serving as a Movement Strategy Center Innovation Fellow, and is on the boards of Food Policy Action and the Oakland Food Policy Council.

"Everybody should have both the rights and the means to produce or procure, prepare and to share food that is good for people and good for the planet," said Khanna. "Our food should be nourishing people, nourishing communities, and nourishing their cultures."

Khanna has been educating consumers, organizing grassroots campaigns and protests, and trying to improve public policy. She wants to convince consumers and corporations that, "Whoever controls the food system controls our seeds, controls our water, and controls our land — that's who controls our lives."

Khanna was recently recognized by the James Beard Foundation with the Community Food Leadership Award for her work as a food justice activist organizing across communities for equitable and ecological food systems on local, regional, and national levels. Khanna will continue to follow her passion on transformative change through agriculture and food systems until liberty and food justice is obtained for all.


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