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The Community of Food, Society & Justice Conference, October 2019

Thank you for joining us for the Conference! Please read below for information about this first-ever event: 

#UMFoodSocietyJustice - The ways that we meet the nutritional needs of our communities, while also protecting the planet, promoting healthy lives, and ensuring food justice are among the greatest challenges facing our Nation and the world today. Centuries of unsustainable agricultural practices and inequitable food distribution place our food systems in peril. How to address these challenges and feed a hungry population raise transformative issues for our communities and academics committed to sustainability and food justice throughout the world.

The Community of Food, Society & Justice Conference will engage students, faculty, staff, farmers, and the community in rigorous dialogue around these challenges. The conference will be structured around a foundation of interdisciplinary scholarship that agrees that recognizing structural relations of power are necessary in order to confront race, class, and gender privileges on issues such as food justice.

Our keynote speaker is investigative reporter, Tracie McMillan,, author of The American Way of Eating:  Undercover at Walmart, Applebee’s, Farm Fields and the Dinner Table,  and “The New Face of Hunger” here:

The conference will feature four panels that will explore the multiple definitions of soil, seeds, farmers, and food.  

In Soil Resistance and Recovery: How Academic Institutions Learn from Farmers, the panel will discuss how, as the foundation of our food systems, one handful of healthy, living soil has over 6 billion mostly microscopic organisms living in it -- roughly the number of humans on the earth.  Farmers often possess in-depth, experiential knowledge of the soil they farm, which builds generation after generation. Yet industrialized agricultural processes often ignore natural biological processes leading to widespread soil degradation. A growing cohort of researchers has joined with farmers to focus on agroecological production methods.  In this session we will explore both the history and the current power of farmers and researchers working together to ensure that our soils and our agricultural systems can continue to feed us for generations to come.

Growing Heritage: Reclaiming Indigenous Seeds is a panel discussion with three Indigenous women who are active in seedkeeping and food sovereignty initiatives within their communities and in affiliation with national organizations. The panelists will share their perspectives on the importance of seeds for Indigenous communities and projects that reconnect seeds curated in museums and by seed saving organizations with communities of origin.

The panel Our Community Values: Supporting Local Producers, asks “What power do we, as producers, hold in creating a better food system within our community, our state,and the world?”  Can we leverage both the individual and the academic institution to safeguard against exploitation of our producers, while simultaneously serving community needs?  This panel will explore efforts to support agricultural projects through applied and participatory research.  The panelists will also address hunger on college campuses, and highlight the creation of UM’s food pantry from the perspective of a student who has been central to the process.  

The Healthy Food Actionists panel is a fast-paced discussion around programs and policies that aim to improve healthy eating.  Situated through the lens of a social ecological model, this panel examines what's working and why on a range of healthy eating interventions such as soda taxes, school and community gardens, double up food bucks, prescriptions for health, nutrition education, healthy corner store initiatives, and cooking classes.

The conference will also feature poster sessions with graduate and undergraduate students, book sales, and lunch provided by University of Michigan Dining featuring produce grown at our Campus Farm.  

Listen to the RC Podcast episode about the Conference featuring four of the planning committee members: Alex Bryan, Lilly Fink Shapiro, Virginia Murphy and Lisa Young. Read the transcript of this episode here.