UCSF Sustainability Stories

Deborah Fleischer, Green Impact, June 2015

Student Fellowship Provides Sustainable Food Solutions

JacobWith the world population projected to reach eight billion in 10 years, it is now more important than ever to create solutions for global food security. By leveraging University of California’s achievements in nutrition, agricultural and climate science, UC President Janet Napolitano and Chancellors from the 10 campuses created The UC Global Food Initiative (GFI) to encourage each campus to identify sustainability and nutrition best practices. As part of the initiative, the Office of the President launched a fellowship program that sponsored two UCSF graduate students to pursue a project. Along with 51 other fellows announced in December, two UCSF students received the $2,500 award to address food-related issues:  Jacob Mirsky and Jonathon Schor.  This month we will highlight Jacob Mirsky’s project and next month we will highlight Jonathon’s.

Tackling Food Insecurity

“During my fourth year, I really wanted to take part in a project that was more service oriented,” explained Jacob Mirsky, a UCSF medical student who just finished a fellowship with the GFI. Being in the fellowship program allowed Jacob to take an active role in shaping the San Francisco General Hospital (SFGH) Therapeutic Food Pantry.  The Therapeutic Food Pantry (TFP) is new food program to help the underprivileged in San Francisco gain access to healthy food. Scheduled to open in 2015, TFP is a clinically-based prescription food program that will increase access to healthy food, promote healthy eating, and provide nutrition education, with the ultimate goal of improving health outcomes and reducing preventable healthcare utilization. Many of the participants are uninsured or underinsured patients, and many are “food insecure,” which is defined as going hungry or being at risk for going hungry because of the inability to afford food.

Jacob used his stipend to provide incentives and healthy food options for focus group participants, who were patients at SF General, a UCSF learning hospital. Jacob’s research allowed him to work with patients to try to identify how the TFP could best fit their needs.

Intersection of Environment and Health

“I’m really interested in the intersection of environment and health and I think the influence that food has on health is grossly underappreciated in America,” stated Jacob. “I was really interested in working on a study that helped bring to light the challenges that patients have with food.” Jacob wants to work towards building a healthcare system that values healthy foods as a means to healthy patients. This program is going to increase access to healthy foods, as patients will receive fresh fruits and vegetables for free, and provide nutritional education to all patients. 

UCSF Mentors Inspire

The fellowship provided Jacob the freedom and support he needed to accomplish his goals. “I wanted to do something productive during my fourth year and at UCSF there’s a lot of opportunity and freedom to work on projects,” he said. Jacob attributes his success to the support he received from the UCSF community, including his mentors Sharad Jain and Beth Wilson, his project sponsor, Rita Nguyen, and Erika Sarmiento of the SFGH Wellness Center.  Jacob explained, “I would absolutely say that I was influenced by the communities at UCSF because of the focus on social change and advocacy. My mentors crafted my interest in working at San Francisco General and supported me to be an advocate for social change.” Jacob graduated in May with an MD and is moving to take up a Primary Care Internal Medicine Residency at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, where he hopes he can continue to shape the healthcare system.