Panel at U.Va. to Examine Perceptions of Food

September 21, 2010

September 21, 2010 — How does the media shape people's perceptions of what they eat? How do those perceptions about food choices reflect different ideas about environmental sustainability?

These are the topics of "What's On Your Plate: A Public Forum on Local Food and the Media," a panel discussion to be held Oct. 7, from 4 to 6 p.m., at the new Jefferson Scholars Foundation building at 112 Clarke Court, off Fontaine Avenue.

The panel will feature three of today's pre-eminent food writers: Marian Burros of the New York Times; Tom Philpott, a food editor at; and James McWilliams, the author of "Just Food: Where Locavores Get it Wrong and How We Can Truly Eat Responsibly." The panel will examine alternative agriculture and the media forces that shape perceptions of the sustainable food movement.

An award-winning cookbook author and journalist, Burros was a senior staff writer at the Times and a restaurant critic until her retirement in 2008. She is best known for her work on health and nutrition, consumer affairs, food safety reporting and sustainable agriculture. She now writes for a number of publications, including the Times, and is covering Michelle Obama's Childhood Obesity Initiative. Some of her recent writing is available here.

Philpott is the food editor for Seattle-based, and writes a weekly column on food politics called "Victual Reality." He is the co-founder and co-director of Maverick Farms, a nonprofit, small, sustainable-agriculture farm in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Some of his recent writing is available here.

McWilliams is an associate professor of history at Texas State University. He was a fellow at Yale University's Agrarian Studies Program, and is the author of four books. He has written for the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and Some of his recent writing is available here.

The panel will be moderated by Benjamin Cohen, historian, agrarian studies scholar and coordinator of the U.Va. Food Collaborative, an interdisciplinary group focused on environmental sustainability and food systems.

The event is co-sponsored by a range of University and community members, including Relay Foods; U.Va. Green Dining; ARAMARK; the Office of the Vice Provost for Academic Programs; Hereford College; the Integrated Nitrogen Footprint Project; Adam Dean, the fellowship program coordinator at the Jefferson Scholars Foundation; the Woodrow Wilson Department of Politics in the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences; The Department of Urban & Environmental Planning in the School of Architecture; the Engineering School's Department of Science, Technology & Society; and U.Va.'s International Residential College.

A reception highlighting produce from Charlottesville-area farms will immediately follow the forum. Parking is very limited at the foundation, but the University Transit System blue route buses and the Charlottesville Area Transit trolley both stop directly in front of the building.

For directions to the Jefferson Scholars Foundation building, visit here.

For other information, visit the Food Collaborative website.

— By Matt Kelly