Thursday, October 20, 2022

By Victoria Brito Morales

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – UTRGV’s Agroecology and Resilient Food Systems Program and UTRGV’s Center for Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Advancement have been awarded a social impact grant from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation to expand and accelerate efforts to build resilient and equitable food systems in the Rio Grande Valley. 

Dr. Alexis Racelis, associate professor in the UTRGV School of Earth Environmental and Marine Sciences and co-director of the Center for Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Advancement, is leading the project. 

“For students, staff and faculty at UTRGV and in the College of Sciences, this generous support provides a tremendous opportunity to get involved and informed about ways to apply our learning, interests and passion toward solutions that are equitable, sustainable and healthy for our own communities,” he said of the $250,000 grant. 

Dr. Alexis Racelis
Dr. Alexis Racelis, associate professor in the UTRGV School of Earth Environmental and Marine Sciences and co-director of the Center for Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Advancement. (UTRGV Photo)

Racelis formed an advisory committee with 15 external community members to co-organize events, such as a speaker series to be held at UTRGV that will bring in speakers from across the Valley and beyond to jumpstart conversations on relevant local issues like food, equity and economy.  

The group held its first meeting Aug. 26, and the first grant-sponsored discussion is scheduled for Nov. 8 to address the topic of local food procurement in public schools. Panelists will include farmers, food procurement specialists and public-school administrators and food distribution representatives. 

Overall, the project will engage local community partners, residents, municipal governments, local businesses and the general public to build and support civic agriculture and more equitable food systems in the region, Racelis said. It also will allow for expanded collaboration with the UTRGV Center for Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Advancement (SARA), the Hub of Prosperity Farms, and other community-based partners in the region who provide technical assistance and capacity building in food and agriculture.

“Food availability and equitability are paramount to the health of our communities. The generous support of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation affirms our commitment to developing innovative approaches to solving agricultural challenges in the region,” said Dr. Kelly Nassour, executive vice president for Institutional Advancement.

The social impact grant is a testament to our collaborative efforts, and we look forward to its facilitation of continued outreach and engagement with our students, programs, and partners. Many thanks to the W.K. Kellogg Foundation for believing in our work at UTRGV.”

Dr. Vivian Incera, dean of the UTRGV College of Sciences, said the grant would greatly impact community engagement. 

“Dr. Racelis’ work on community engagement has been impressive,” Incera said. “His role in promoting agriculture and sustainability in research and educational programs at the College of Sciences has led to great initiatives, like the Hub of Prosperity, where students work with faculty mentors to explore the viability of developing sustainable food sources in an urban setting.  

“I am sure this grant will allow him to leverage these efforts to play an even more impactful role in helping the Valley to find sustainable solutions to such challenges as food scarcity, poverty and equity,” she said. 

For more information on the Agroecology and Resilient Food Systems, visit or to listen in to the live-streamed advisory committee, register at



The W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), founded in 1930 as an independent, private foundation by breakfast cereal pioneer, Will Keith Kellogg, is among the largest philanthropic foundations in the United States. Guided by the belief that all children should have an equal opportunity to thrive, WKKF works with communities to create conditions for vulnerable children so they can realize their full potential in school, work and life. The Kellogg Foundation is based in Battle Creek, Mich., and works throughout the United States and internationally, as well as with sovereign tribes. For more information, visit  


The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) was created by the Texas Legislature in 2013 as the first major public university of the 21st century in Texas. This transformative initiative provided the opportunity to expand educational opportunities in the Rio Grande Valley, including a new School of Medicine, and made it possible for residents of the region to benefit from the Permanent University Fund – a public endowment contributing support to the University of Texas System and other institutions.

UTRGV has campuses and off-campus research and teaching sites throughout the Rio Grande Valley including in Boca Chica Beach, Brownsville (formerly The University of Texas at Brownsville campus), Edinburg (formerly The University of Texas-Pan American campus), Harlingen, McAllen, Port Isabel, Rio Grande City, and South Padre Island. UTRGV, a comprehensive academic institution, enrolled its first class in the fall of 2015, and the School of Medicine welcomed its first class in the summer of 2016.