UEPI Celebrates Decade of Success
In the 10 years since its founding, the Urban & Environmental Policy Institute (UEPI) at Occidental College has left its fingerprints all over Southern California: on the eating habits of schoolchildren, on the phasing out of toxic dry-cleaning chemicals, on policy makers’ perception of the Los Angeles River, and on the region’s overall political agenda.
Although our projects address a wide range of issues, our goal always has been a simple one: to make Southern California a more just, livable, and democratic place,” says Robert Gottlieb, Luce Professor of Urban Environmental Studies and institute director. “By addressing major issues here in Los Angeles, we are creating models with national impact.”
To mark its record of service, UEPI’s Tenth Anniversary Celebration, which will include its annual awards ceremony and a silent auction, will be held on April 19 at 4:30 p.m. outside the UEPI building on the Occidental campus (the street address is 1882 Campus Road, Eagle Rock).
Among the items at the silent auction will be a basket of fresh produce from the Southland Farmers Market Association – the fruit of one of UEPI’s oldest and most successful programs. Launched in 1997, the Farm-to-School program promotes the purchase of produce from local farmers, an innovative effort to improve school lunches and children’s eating habits while giving small farmers access to the multi-billion dollar school food services market.
Started at a single school in the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, UEPI’s farm-to-school effort has helped establish similar programs in more than 700 school districts in 36 states. “This program showed me that children will choose fresh, healthy food in the school cafeteria if we make it available,” says Tracie Thomas, assistant director of student nutrition services for Compton Unified School District.
Other successful UEPI initiatives over the past decade include:
- Re-Envisioning the L.A. River, a program launched in 1999 to change the way Angelenos think about the much-abused waterway. Working with Friends of the Los Angeles River (FOLAR) and more than 50 other organizations, UEPI organized more than three dozen events – from river walks to a mayoral candidates debate – to raise awareness. “For more than 20 years, I’ve been telling L.A. residents to discover the river and help us rebirth it,” says FOLAR’s Lewis McAdams. “The Re-Envisioning of the L.A. River was a milestone in getting people to do that. Now new parks and renewed wildlife and cultural awareness are springing up all along the river.”
- Researching and promoting alternatives to the use of toxic chemicals in dry cleaning. This effort by Occidental’s Pollution Prevention Center played a major role in the passage of state legislation in 2004 taxing the use of percholoroethylene, and the Southern California Air Quality Management District’s decision earlier this year to phase out its use. “The work of UEPI’s Pollution Prevention Center has made it possible to envision a new model for the environmental transformation of industries that often fiercely resist change,” says UCLA Law Professor Tim Malloy, former head of its Environmental Law Clinic.
- The Progressive L.A. Conference, mounted with the Liberty Hill Foundation, the ACLU and other community organizations to provide a focal point for regional social movements. The 1998 conference, which attracted more than 600 participants, led to the creation of the Progressive Los Angeles Network (PLAN). “PLAN was able to link important campaigns such as those for more parks and open space, demands for an affordable housing trust fund, and scrutiny of regional ports as pollution sources,” says Tori Osborne, special assistant to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. “It demonstrated that the quest for environmental and social justice in Los Angeles has a very real and powerful future in store.”
For more information about UEPI and the Tenth Anniversary Celebration, go to www.uepi.oxy.edu.