Yesterday more than 300 people gathered on an unseasonably warm January day at a conference center outside of Minneapolis to talk about food, farming and health. The conference, State of the Plate: Minnesota Healthy Food Futures, was co-hosted by IATP, Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Minnesota and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The event included national figures like Dr. Kelly Brownell of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity and Anne Haddix from the CDC, as well as state leaders like Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Ed Ehlinger and University of Minnesota’s Dr. Mary Story—as well as community, public health and food activists.
Much of the discussions centered on the important role health professionals need to play in advocating for a healthier food system, whether at the community or state and federal policy level. Dr. Brownell argued that our children are being robbed of their future. For the first time in history, the current generation of children, he said, is expected to have a shorter lifespan than their parents, largely due to diet-related disease. Instead, Dr. Brownell said in his keynote to attendees, we need to make healthy food the “optimal default”—or put more simply, the easiest food to access.
Other topics covered at the conference included the role of the food system in health, the existing food environment, the challenges for farmers to grow healthy food and the social justice implications of our food system. See our interview with Dr. Kelly Brownell below or check out some photos from the event on IATP’s Flickr. - Ben Lilliston