Past Award Recipients

CRFS Student Awards


Every spring semester, the UA Center for Regional Food Studies (CRFS) offers up to 3-5 awards of $500 to any UA graduate or undergraduate student in support of food-related research or educational activities over the summer months. Funds can be used to cover tuition costs or other expenses related to the successful completion of planned academic work related to food.


If awarded funding, recipients are expected to:

  • File a 1-page summary describing how the funds helped to support your academic goals and/or research. 
  • Share a 15–20-minute oral presentation at a CRFS grad panel event in the semester following the award period.

Past awardees:

Summer 2022 Recipients

Eden Kinkaid is a PhD student in Geography in the University of Arizona’s School of Geography, Development, and Environment. Their work centers on food systems and food culture in Tucson and southern Arizona. Eden’s dissertation research examines how various actors are leveraging Tucson’s food culture and food heritage in projects of economic and community development. Additionally, they are a member of the UA Food Systems Research Lab and have contributed to the 2020-2021 Center for Regional Food Studies State of the Tucson Food System Report on the impacts of Covid-19 on southern Arizona’s local food system. The CRFS Student Research Award has supported them as they conclude their qualitative fieldwork in Tucson.


Skylar Benedict is an enthusiastic student of languages, aquatic plants, and blues music currently in his third year as doctoral student in the University for Arizona School of Anthropology. Pursuing studies in applied environmental anthropology, Skylar currently researches community conceptions of mangrove value and their relationship to estuary management and food cultivation in both Sonora, Mexico and O’ahu, Hawai’i. Skylar’s work blends participant observation and informal interviews to investigate how people in both communities articulate their relationships with mangroves and other forms of estuarine life. The CRFS research award helped to reduce the substantial cost of short-term housing on O’ahu for Skylar during the summer of 2022 to pursue this research. 




Mar Erisnelida Ruiz Barraza, is 27 years old, and has been a high school teacher for almost 5 years. She was raised between the cities of San Luis, Arizona and San Luis Rio Colorado, Sonora, Mexico; the most perfect border towns to grow up in. She is currently a graduate student in the Bilingual Journalism Master’s Program. As part of her master’s project, she decided to show the positive sides of the border and border towns by using the “5 senses”. Part of her project is showing the taste and smell of the border, which consists of showing typical foods that are cooked between the communities within the border towns. Thanks to the Student Research Award from the UA Center for Regional Studies, she was able to purchase ingredients for the people who helped her by cooking their typical and favorite Mexican dishes. She is happy that they didn’t have to spend money on ingredients.


Ash Avila and is a Senior at the University of Arizona majoring in Sustainable Built Environments with a minor in Spanish. She was born and raised in Nogales, Arizona. Growing up in a small border town led to her interests in urban design, sustainable communities, and urban food systems in cities, especially cities with large Latino populations. The CRFS award helped support her work in creating a local food hub in Nogales, Arizona with SEEDS Community Agriculture. Over the summer, she was able to help set up a rainwater harvesting system; plant squash, beans, and corn (las tres hermanas), as well as a few other crops; and begin the planning process for an official opening date for our first educational farm.


Chris Destiche, before coming to the University of Arizona, Chris’s early career has been marked by service-work devoted to furthering social and environmental causes. Directly after receiving his degree in Anthropology with a focus on Latin American Studies from the University of Georgia, Chris worked on a food security campaign with the Public Interest Network. He then transitioned into conservation-work with the National Park Service, working on a native seed initiative in the Grand Canyon and exotic species removal in Yellowstone. He later joined the Peace Corps as an agriculture volunteer, where he worked cooperatively with Indigenous Mayan farmers to promote sustainable agriculture. Seeing first-hand the disastrous effects of climate change and globalization on rural Guatemalan communities and their connection to migration inspired him to pursue a degree in Development Practices.

This past summer, Chris returned to Guatemala and conducted transdisciplinary research in collaboration with the Mesoamerican Permaculture Institute (IMAP), an indigenous run and owned NGO whose aim is to foment food sovereignty, cultural preservation and biodiversity through the promotion of permaculture with local farmers. His thesis-work looks at IMAP as a case study in indigenous resistance against industrialized agriculture and examines the extent to which practicing permaculture allows indigenous farmers to resist the marginalizing forces of conventional agriculture and become independent of the system. Coupled with additional funding support, the grant he received from the Center for Regional Food Studies allowed him to justly compensate participating farmers for their time and knowledge during the interview phase of his research. His aim is to publish a coauthored academic article with the IMAP in order to help the institute gain recognition as a replicable model for





Summer 2021 Recipients

 CRFS student award recipients (Summer 2021): Julia Davies and Ziya Kaya

Every spring semester, CRFS offers up to three student research awards in support of food-related research or educational activities over the summer months. This year, CRFS supported the Ph.D. research of Julia Davies (School of Geography, Developoment, and Environment) and Ziya Kaya (School of Anthropology). Congratulations, Julia and Ziya!



Julia Davies is a third year PhD student in the University of Arizona’s School of Geography, Development and Environment. She received her BSc (Honors) in Environmental and Geographical Science and MSc in Climate Change and Development from the University of Cape Town, South Africa. Julia’s PhD dissertation focuses on urban food system transformations and governance in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). She is particularly concerned with the high levels of food insecurity being experienced in low-income urban communities in the SSA region. She is interested in understanding the multiple, interlinked drivers of urban food insecurity, including climate change and related food price shocks, high rates of urban poverty, and ineffective food system governance. Core areas of her research include understanding the barriers to urban agriculture and the governance of traditional open-air food markets in SSA. Julia’s work forms part of a broader, NSF-funded project focused on the linkages between coupled human-natural systems and across rural-urban continuums in Zambia and Kenya.

The CRFS grant contributed to her research on the governance of traditional open-air food markets in SSA. Data for this research were collected through a phone call survey, administered to the market committees of 81 markets in Zambia. She is using the data from this survey to analyze the types of governance arrangements that tend to lead to sustained and effective markets. This research is important because while some markets are well governed and function effectively, others face multiple challenges such as poor sanitation, a lack of food safety protocols, infrastructure deficits, and ineffective management. When markets are not well governed then they are not resilient to shocks, nor are they sustainable in the long-term, thereby ultimately impacting the livelihoods of food producers, vendors, and the households who depend on markets for food purchases.


Ziya Kaya is a PhD student in sociocultural anthropology with a minor in geography interested in simultaneous, mutually-reinforcing transformations at the intersection of rural livelihoods and environmental and technological change. His earlier research was on labor processes in and outside a small-scale vegetable-producing greenhouse in western Turkey. For his doctoral dissertation, he will conduct ethnographic research on digital farming technologies as part of food security policies in Turkey and their impacts on farmers’ interactions with agroecology (crops, soils, climate) and farmers’ livelihoods, starting in Spring 2022.

He would like to express his gratitude to the CRFS award committee for supporting his virtual pre-dissertation research on the digital transformation of agriculture in Turkey in Summer 2021. During this remote research, he virtually interviewed digital farming technology companies’ coordinators and farmers and public officials; participated in their virtual meetings and webinars; and conducted archival research on their websites that includes annual reports and scholarly and popular publications on digital farming.











Summer 2020 Recipients

Blu Au

The Center for Regional Food Studies (CRFS) student award supported Blu Au's academic place-based research, specifically exploring how Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) community health outcomes are influenced by their relationships to cultural land practices- which can include- traditional foodways, traditional medicinal practices, cultural practices and spiritual practices.

During Summer 2020, Blu worked with the Dunbar Pavillion Community Garden on an earth-based educational project that focuses on reconnecting BIPOC communities to plant-based health and wellness practices, while recentering, revaluing and elevating the historical and cultural knowledge of BIPOC communities. The goal of this project is to empower BIPOC communities to reclaim agency over their own health and wellness in order to make more informed decisions about how they treat and advocate for treatment of themselves.


Mariana Manriquez

Mariana Manriquez, a doctoral student in Sociology conducted a historical analysis devoted to locating patterns of regulation and management of public markets in Mexico City; from the times of the Colony all up to the contemporary period. Throughout the months of June, July and August, Mariana complied historical monographs and newspaper articles as well as completed content analysis.  This analysis revealed the transitory notions of modernity crafted by the Mexican state. These notions guided different practical approaches to the spatial and economic management of public markets. the analysis revealed the historical perseverance of regional economic circuits, despite changing patterns in consumption and the entrance of supermarket conglomerates—positioning public markets as primordial centres for food distribution.  The research was completed thanks to the funding received from the CRFS Student Award.  Moving forward, Mariana will continue to make linkages between past governance strategies and unfolding approaches that emerge to further mitigate the economic and public health devastations that the COVID-19 pandemic presents to public markets, its vendors and consumers.


Sehdia Mansaray

The Center for Regional Food Studies Award has supported my goals to strengthen my applied research skills and broaden my professional network within the realm of food security. Through the scholarship, I was provided a more confident foothold to start off what had begun as a stressful summer, professionally and financially. With my connection to CRFS, I have a more solid platform on which to build upon my past experiences in agriculture and agroforestry whilst also promoting myself as a professional within the realm of food studies and security. The scholarship assisted me on a research project with Associate Research Scientist and Professor, Dr. Stephanie Buechler, focused on understanding the role community gardens have played in the food security of under or unemployed gardeners under COVID-19 conditions.