Food summit to tackle ‘food for billions’

COLUMBUS — Feeding a world population that will jump from 7 billion to 9 billion by 2050 isn’t just a matter of increasing agricultural yields. It will also require advances in food processing, in distribution systems, in public policy — even in the way people think about and interact with food.

To jump-start the conversation and help direct Ohio State University research and programs in this area, the university’s Food Innovation Center is sponsoring a food summit, “Food for Billions,” on Sept. 12 at the Ohio Union, 1739 N. High St., Columbus.

The keynote speaker is Michael Specter, a New Yorker staff writer who covers science, technology and public health issues and is the author of Denialism: How Irrational Thinking Hinders Scientific Progress, Harms the Planet, and Threatens Our Lives.

“He emphasizes the importance of paying attention to scientific discovery and using common sense when it comes to this challenge,” said Julie Manning, the center’s executive manager.

Panel discussion

Building upon the keynote will be a panel discussion moderated by Ann Fisher, host of All Sides with Ann Fisher on WOSU-FM.

The panel will feature:

  • Bob Aiken, president and CEO of Feeding America.
  • John Floros, dean of the College of Agriculture at Kansas State University and past president of the Institute of Food Technologists.
  • Glenna McCollum, president of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
  • Ellen Terpstra, president and CEO of the International Food and Agricultural Trade Policy Council.
  • Patrick Westhoff, director of the Food and Agricultural Resource Policy Institute at the University of Missouri.

Afterward, summit participants will meet in small groups with panelists to discuss strategies to tackle “Food for Billions” topics of nutrition and health; the economics of agricultural and energy policy; food waste, production and safety; alleviating hunger and food insecurity; and food policy and trade.

“We’re hoping to attract leading decision-makers from a variety of disciplines — nutrition, food production, retail, policy, philanthropy — anyone who wants to be part of the conversation of providing healthy, adequate food for large populations on this planet,” said Ken Lee, a professor of food science and technology in the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences, and center director.

The Food Innovation Center started in 2010 with a five-year investment of $3.75 million from the university’s Office of Academic Affairs and Office of Research. By 2013, the center had attracted more than 370 members from all 14 colleges at Ohio State to collaborate in teams to tackle food-related issues, which is exactly what is needed to tackle such a global challenge, Lee said.

Lee and Manning said this event could prove to be a turning point, helping the center advance partnerships with outside organizations and spur new thinking among its members.

Registration is $100 and is limited to 300 participants. Reduced fees are being offered for students ($20) and Food Innovation Center members ($50).

The registration deadline is Sept. 5. To register, go to http://foodforbillions.com/. For more information, contact Manning at fic@osu.edu or 614-292-0229.

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