UC Food Observer chooses a handful of important stories for you to read as you finish your work week. On the menu, in no particular order: a Q & A with gardening genius Roger Doiron; the Navajo Nation enacts a junk food tax; we’re treating soil like dirt; UC’s Janet Napolitano on what UC is doing to help feed the world; and an inspiring story of Syrian scientists working to preserve seeds in the midst of civil war.


1. Q & A with Roger Doiron, creator of the “Eat the View” White House Garden campaign, and founder of Kitchen Gardeners International (KGI), a Maine-based nonprofit network of over 30,000 people from 120 countries who are taking a hands-on approach to (re)localizing the food supply through gardening. An amazing discussion about the power of gardens to transform the world.


2. The Navajo nation enacts a junk food tax. The Navajo Nation, a 27,000-square-mile area spread across New Mexico, Arizona and Utah, will become the first place in the United States to levy a tax on “junk food.” It is anticipated that the legislation will raise about $1M a year, which will be distributed for a variety of “wellness” projects: “greenhouses, food processing and storage facilities, traditional foods cooking classes, community gardens, farmers’ markets, and more.” Leilani Clark for Mother Jones (some of the writing originally appeared in Civil Eats).


3. We’re treating soil like dirt. The year 2015 has been designated International Year of Soils by the United Nations. Part of the intent is to increase awareness about our absolute dependence upon soil as the thing that sustains us. In an op-ed piece written for The Guardian, George Monbiot (@GeorgeMonbiot) writes about the dangers we face when we fail to provide proper stewardship for soil.


4. How can science help feed the world? UC’s Janet Napolitano responds. The American Society for Microbiology (ASM) is the oldest and largest single life science membership organization in the world. It publishes a quarterly magazine, Cultures, which explores the intersection of science, policy, and global challenges. Read this piece to learn how one of the world’s preeminent research institutions is tackling the most compelling issue of our time: how to sustainably and nutritiously feed a growing world population.


5. Syrian scientists preserve seeds despite civil war. Syria is part of the “fertile crescent” – also know as the “cradle of civilization” – which saw the development of some of the earliest human civilizations. The fields around Aleppo, Syria were among the first to produce wheat and barley crops for humankind. Today Aleppo is the site of an ongoing battle in a bloody civil war that has convulsed the Syrian nation. Despite the dangerous conditions, a team of scientists at the Icarda genebank in Aleppo has done extraordinary work in preserving the genetic diversity of seeds that the world’s population relies on for food, risking their lives in the process. One of the most inspiring stories of the week, brought to us by Fiona Harvey via The Guardian.