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Untangling the Food Chain

January 18, 2011

Unseasonably warm weather, live music, and a colorful Food Fair marked the beginning of Lewis & Clark’s 13th annual Environmental Affairs Symposium, held in mid-October.

The Food Fair, a new addition to this year’s event, attracted several local businesses and advocacy groups, including the Townshend’s Tea Company, Cork ReHarvest, and Side Yard urban farm.

The symposium, titled Following the Food Chain, encouraged exploration of a broad range of issues influencing food choices and the ways in which eating can operate as a form of environmentalism.

Topics included the politics of food labeling, food security and insecurity, and the supply chains involved in creating a latte.

Ben Mitzner CAS ’11, an environmental studies major, and Claire Cummings CAS ’11, an international affairs major, led the planning effort for this year’s symposium.

“We put a lot of thought into picking out panelists,” says Cummings.

“We wanted to identify perspectives that would promote interaction and engagement.

Our mantra was ‘constructive controversy.’ ” With that goal in mind, the organizers chose two keynote speakers: Julie Guthman, associate professor of community studies at the University of California at Santa Cruz, and Mike Gilliland, cofounder and former CEO of Wild Oats Markets.

The speakers focused on how to ethically produce food, debating government regulation versus market-based solutions.

As a capstone, the symposium offered a joint workshop/banquet, a time for students and speakers to debrief on the week’s panels and share ideas over a meal catered by Bon Appétit.

“Our vision was to create an open atmosphere for discussion,” says Mitzner.

“We wanted people to feel comfortable questioning their own assumptions and those of idolized food movements.”

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