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A Call to Serve...Better Food

The United States must abandon its nutrient-based approach to food and diet, in favor of meals with a balance of fresh, whole foods. That's the central theme of a major conference that will be held at TC on Saturday, April 4th. Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer will speak.
The United States must abandon its nutrient-based approach to food and diet, which for the past 50 years has focused on meeting scientifically-determined numerical targets for vitamins, minerals and other indicators, in favor of meals with a balance of fresh, whole foods.
That’s the central theme of “Restoring Balance: New Visions for Food and Activity,” a major conference that will be held at Teachers College on the 100th anniversary of the College’s nutrition education program, which is the nation’s oldest. The speakers will include Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, whose office produced the landmark report “Food in the Public Interest” this past fall, and Joan Dye Gussow, who is the Mary Swartz Rose Professor Emeritus of Nutrition Education at Teachers College.

The conference will be held from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, April 4th in the Cowin Conference Center at Teachers College, which is located on the east side of Broadway between 120th and 121st streets. 
“This country developed a dysfunctional culture around food and physical activity that has reached a crisis point,” says Gussow. “The nutrient focus has led us to accept horrible school lunches simply because they meet numbers standards, and to allow our food to become dominated by an industry that serves up health bars and puddings made of plastic. All you have to do to know it doesn’t work is look around at our children, who are becoming obese and developing diabetes at alarming rates. Meanwhile, we know what’s needed to keep people healthy. We know you need a certain portion of plant matter, a certain portion of animal matter – for which plants can substitute – that must be of high quality. We’ve got to find a way to get back to the food.”
In support of that goal, the conference will formally endorse the Stringer report, which calls for establishment of a local “food shed” for New York City – the supply of the city’s markets and restaurants with locally or regionally grown produce – and continuing efforts to coordinate improvements in eating and fitness behavior. There will also be a special display of new MapQuest technology by Global Information Systems that makes it possible to locate, on the Internet, all food stores and restaurant options within 400 yards of every public school in New York City. And the 400 conference attendees will be served a meal by CulinArt, the company that operates the Teachers College cafeteria, that will draw on local food sources.
Other speakers will include Isobel Contento, current Mary Swartz Rose Professor and Chair of the Teachers College program in Nutrition Education, who is director of the College’s Center for Food and Environment; Lorelei Disogra, Vice President, Nutrition and Health, United Fresh Produce Association; Lori Benson, Director New York City Department of Education Office of Fitness and Health Education; and Toni Liquori, directing partner of School Food FOCUS.
To learn more about TC’s nutrition program, visit www.tc.columbia.edu/balance  
Scott Stringer's report "Food in the Public Interest"

Published Monday, Mar. 23, 2009