Gary Nabhan, local author, ethnobotanist, and native seed activist, will give the second lecture in the food-focused Downtown Lecture Series this Wednesday, October 22. Titled Tucson: City of Gastronomy, Hub for Food Diversity, his talk will focus on the diversity of local food resources and what makes Tucson such a unique agricultural environment.
Nabhan will talk about the cultural diversity of Tucson’s food history, explaining how the convergence of multiple cultures in one area contributes to such a wide range of foodways.
However, in spite of our rich diversity in food heritage, says Nabhan, many regions in Tucson have been deemed “food deserts,” where people have limited access to nutritional foods. Nabhan will discuss how we can fill in these gaps by giving people access to local food resources.
Nabhan works as a research scientist at the University of Arizona’s Southwest Center. He has published work on sustainable food practices, the promotion of utilizing native seeds, and crop biodiversity. Nabhan has written 26 books on local agriculture and food and writes for multiple food magazines across the country. He serves as the editorial chair of Edible Baja Arizona.
What will your lecture be about?
I will be describing how Tucson’s status as a City of Gastronomy and southern Arizona’s status as a hub for food biodiversity can help alleviate poverty and food insecurity in the region. Food and farm microenterprise investment is our best strategy to economic recovery and vanquishing of our seven food deserts.
Why did you decide to focus your lecture on these topics?
We are on the verge of knowing whether Tucson will join the United Nations Creative Cities Network, and I have been working on this connection for the last three years with Edible Baja Arizona, the University of Arizona, the Mayor and City, and Santa Cruz Valley Heritage Alliance taking the leads.
Why is food an important issue for you?
I grew up as grandson of a Lebanese immigrant fruit peddler. My uncles and father worked in fruit markets and groceries, as I did, when [they were] younger. Their hard work and knowledge propelled them out of poverty, and my hope is that I may be able to help other immigrants in our city do the same. Like our daily bread, food is sacrament.