Whole Foods Market 5% Community Giving Day selects ASU Swette Center as local partner


November 22, 2019

Kathleen Yetman grew up knowing where her food came from. She says it was “a magical place,” her grandmother’s quarter-acre backyard garden in the community of Prescott, 100 miles north of Phoenix.

“I spent my childhood roaming the garden, discovering worms, feasting on raspberries, climbing the apple tree and helping my grandmother with tasks like cutting the heads off grasshoppers, sifting compost or harvesting sugar snap peas,” she recalls. woman holding basket of vegetables at farmers market Kathleen Yetman, an ASU food policy and sustainability leader, works at the Prescott Farmers Market, where she serves as executive director.

Today, Yetman is one of 20 Arizona State University graduate students in the Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems’ inaugural Food Policy and Sustainability Leadership class. This cohort of changemakers representing the future of food is the recipient of funding support from one of the world’s leading natural and organic food retailers.

On Dec. 4, Yetman will join fellow leadership classmates at the new Whole Foods Market at 750 S. Ash Ave. in Tempe as beneficiaries of the company’s 5% Community Giving Day. On that day, as part of a longstanding commitment to its communities, Whole Foods Market will donate 5% of net sales from the store to support the class in an upcoming hands-on “field trip” across Arizona.

“The 5% Community Giving Day funding from Whole Foods Market will help us connect our food policy students with local practitioners. We will meet with farmers, ranchers, tribal leaders, policymakers, restaurateurs, food processors and advocates for the hungry and absorb their no-nonsense, real-life advice on how to solve challenges for the future of food,” said Kathleen Merrigan, executive director of the Swette Center and former U.S. deputy secretary of agriculture under President Barack Obama. “The connection is a vital one, so these leaders and policymakers of tomorrow may understand firsthand what it means to run a dairy, grow alfalfa, raise beef cattle, produce vegetables, bring product to market and more.”

During the Community Giving Day, students in the leadership class will be on hand to thank customers for their support and to answer questions about the Swette Center, food sustainability degree programs and current policy issues in food system transformation.

Yetman, a former FoodCorps service member on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation in eastern Arizona, is now the executive director of the nonprofit Prescott Farmers Market. She says the opportunities afforded by her participation in the leadership class and the lessons learned through what she calls the “Swette Center investment” are important cornerstones in her career path.

“To be a part of this program is an honor and a privilege. From my perspective, this program is an extension of the community of support, relationships and connections I was able to forge with FoodCorps. Dr. Merrigan can connect us directly to leaders across the country, building our capacity to make real change in our communities,” said Yetman, who holds a BA in history from Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon.

“It’s easy to say, ‘Policy’s not my thing,’ and assume that someone else will step up to do the work. But the reality is that to face the daunting challenges of agriculture, both current and imminent, we need to step up our comfort zones and make policy ‘our thing.’ I am so grateful the Swette Center invests in leaders who are already doing the work on the ground and equips us with the knowledge we need to tackle urgent issues,” she added.

The Dec. 4 Whole Foods Market 5% Community Giving Day serves another purpose, above and beyond the 5% donation, according to Merrigan, who serves as the Kelly and Brian Swette Professor of Sustainable Food Systems at ASU’s School of Sustainability.

“This is a valuable chance to share Swette Center goals with the community,” she said. “Not only is the center producing the next generation of leaders who will stand tall in ability, knowledge, passion and experience, but it is at the forefront of food systems knowledge development. From grounding science around organic production, to working with chefs and food entrepreneurs to make the sustainable food choice the most delicious choice, to improving policy by revealing the true costs of food production, our faculty and staff are engaged in a broad range of meaningful, impactful research.”

Meanwhile, Yetman is just one of many leadership fellows who are thankful for the impact the Swette Center and its programs have had on their futures.

“Earlier this year, I was grappling with issues that felt bigger than me. The leadership program appeared at exactly the right time — I could become the knowledgeable person and help small farmers and ranchers with overwhelming issues,” said Yetman, who has guided the Prescott Farmers Market for five years.

“The trip we will be taking through Arizona is critical in that it offers us the opportunity to apply what we’ve been learning throughout the semester, to put it to the test on the ground. And it provides our group in-depth, uninterrupted time to share our experiences and knowledge with each other so that we become forever resources for one another.”

Written by Steve Des Georges

Event details

Whole Foods Market 5% Community Giving Day

When: 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 4.

Where: Whole Foods, 750 S. Ash Ave., Tempe.

Smart Region Summit's Flagship Event concludes week of plans to connect campuses, cities and beyond


November 22, 2019

Imagine navigating campus using a 3D map, or learning using virtual and augmented reality in the classrooms of the future. Imagine decongested traffic, and aid being brought to the distressed homeless population of Phoenix. These are all possibilities of leveraging devices connected to the internet for Arizona State University’s Smart Region initiative, an effort to bring everyday life into the future.

As the conclusion to a whole week of “Smart” events, last Friday’s Smart Region Summit Flagship Event saw higher education, government and industry partners come together with ASU and its University Technology Office not only to further develop what our smart region looks like, but also to apply the ideas proposed there across the country and globe. Download Full Image

The day was framed by major strategic partnership announcements, introduced by ASU’s University City Exchange Executive Director Duke Reiter and Morgan Olsen, executive vice president, treasurer and chief financial officer at ASU.

“These new partnerships open up a lot of opportunities for us, expanding the reach and promise of the Smart Region initiative,” Reiter said.

Alteryx CEO Dean Stoecker speaks at the Smart Region Summit's Flagship Event on Nov. 15.

Alteryx and ASU are teaming up to use the former’s data analytics platform to effectively use data to solve the challenges of developing a smart region. This partnership, shared in person by Alteryx CEO Dean Stoecker, will give students, faculty and staff members an edge on tackling real-world business issues and driving social impact.

Further, Cox and ASU announced their plan to launch the Cox Connected Environments Collaboratory at ASU, an incubation space that will cultivate a smart region ecosystem. Cox Communications Executive Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer Sujata Gosalia spoke to the need for a consistent, powerful network on campus and beyond to really capitalize on the promise of the Smart Region initiative. Students, faculty and staff members will develop internet of things (IoT) solutions to problems facing the optimization of buildings for sustainability, provide new learning experiences in virtual and augmented reality, overhaul transportation infrastructure and more.

These announcements signal a big commitment to the improvement of the experience of ASU community members and beyond. They are part of a large effort, indicated by a collaboration with Sprint last month, to bring 5G, the Curiosity IoT Network and a whole new degree program for IoT development, detailed by Sprint Senior Vice President of Internet of Things Ivo Rook at the Flagship Event.

Digital Equity Panel

Deep conversations were started by Global Futures Group Chairman Jerry Hultin, who gave context for the nature of smart initiatives around the world, and "The Smart Enough City" author Ben Green.

“The broad message of my work and my book is that there are a lot of different ways to think about (building smart cities),” Green said.

One way of thinking differently about it is bringing connection to underserved communities; a Digital Equity panel brought consideration of rural and tribal needs. Meanwhile, leaders on the Leading Smart City Practices panel recommended approaches for devising strategies and implementing change. The Connective, the Greater Phoenix Smart Region Consortium instated at the Flagship Event, addressed the challenges and opportunities for bringing Phoenix into the future. ASU Chief Information Officer Lev Gonick said The Connective was the big idea of the day.

“(This is) the first major regional effort in the United States to engage communities across the Valley in co-designing and co-investing in our smart and connected futures,” he said.

A lot of information was shared with and by attendees at the Smart Region Summit, but ultimately, it was their collaboration that held the most promise for moving the needle. Participants broke into groups to make actionable plans for topics like bringing broadband/fiber to rural communities by way of increased investment in infrastructure. Another group looked at increasing mobility in congested urban environments using LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging), which can map 3D environments and provide useful data for transportation overhaul projects. 

Sustainability, recycling/waste management and water conservation efforts also benefit from enhanced sensors and predictive maintenance algorithms that can allow facility management services to fix a problem before it even arises and wastes precious resources.

Thursday also saw the convening of the Smart Campus Innovation Day. It was part of a roster of 19 events, such as an introduction to the “secret weapon” on the “War on Waste” and the Chandler Autonomous Vehicle Symposium.

Enhancing the safety and well-being of students and constituents, the ethical use of data, inclusivity, digital equity and driving sustainable results were the big themes of the day. While the Flagship Event was an exclamation point on a full week of conversations and collaborative strategizing, it is only the jumping-off point for the new, actionable ideas generated there.

Editorial specialist, University Technology Office