BERKELEY, Calif. -

University of California President Janet Napolitano is launching an initiative that she says will deepen the public university's commitment to tackling one of the world's most pressing problems: food.

The former Homeland Security secretary said Tuesday that she wants to leverage California's role in agriculture and research to eradicate hunger, safeguard the world's food supply from climate change and reduce obesity rates at home and abroad.

The idea for the project came out of a dinner Napolitano and UC's 10 campus chancellors had at Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley, which is regarded as the birthplace of California cuisine and its emphasis on fresh, local ingredients.

She says the initiative will encompass actions as varied as infusing food into humanities classes and increasing opportunities for local farmers to furnish the food sold on UC campuses.

Also in attendance at Tuesday's event was UC Santa Cruz professor Daniel Press, executive director of the Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems. Earlier this week, UCSC officials announced the center had received a $4 million gift.

More information on the initiative from the University of California's website is here.