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University of Arkansas at Little Rock

Bowen School Hosts Food Policy Symposium

The Arkansas Journal of Social Change and Public Service will host its inaugural symposium event, “Food for Thought: A Symposium Devoted to Food, Policy, and Community in Arkansas,” from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, Oct. 26, at the Friday Courtroom at the UALR William H. Bowen School of Law.

The event is free and open to the public. Registration opens at 8:15 a.m.

Examining issues that affect food at both the macro and micro levels, panelists and presenters will explore a wide variety of issues from food trucks to farmers markets and “locally sourced” restaurants to large-scale agricultural operations.

The symposium will also address food scarcity and the novel solutions Arkansans are developing to address hunger while considering the availability of nutritious food as legislative and social justice issues.

The Arkansas Journal of Social Change and Public Service examines issues lying at the intersection of policy, public interest, academia, and the law. Published exclusively online, the journal emphasizes interdisciplinary analysis and seeks content not only from legal scholars, but also from academics, as well as advocates, students, and members of the general public.

Organizers said exploring society’s policies toward food, food security, agriculture, commerce, public health, and ethics is more important than ever.

Speakers include sociology and political science professor John Gaber of the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville; Sharon Priest, executive director of the Downtown Little Rock Partnership; Kathy Webb, executive director of Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance; Phyllis Haynes, executive director of the Arkansas Foodbank; Trent Roberts, founding board member of the Arkansas Foodbank; Annette Dove, executive director of Targeting Our People’s Priorities With Service (TOPPS); Jody Hardin, co-owner of Hardin Farms and founder, the Certified Arkansas Farmers Market; and Corri Bristow Sundell and Jack Sundell, founders and co-owners of The Root cafe.

The agenda:

9 a.m. to 9:45 a.m. – The History of Street Vending in America; a presentation on street vending from our nation’s infancy to present day.

10 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. – Food Trucks in the Little Rock Landscape; panelists discuss the emergence of food trucks in central Arkansas, some of the novel ways in which they bring new food to new audiences, combat food deserts, and coexist – or not – with brick-and-mortar restaurants.

11 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. – Trends in Food and Commerce in Arkansas; Has our landscape meaningfully changed, and has that changed our access to healthy food? What affects our attitudes: our kitchens or our take-out options?  Is “healthy eating” truly a community issue, or is it luxury accessible only to certain socioeconomic strata?  What are the roles, both symbiotic and individual, of restaurants, growers, farmers markets, and community gardens in achieving food security?

1 p.m. to 1:45 p.m. – What is Corporate America’s Role in Food Security? Panelists discuss whether and how big business plays a role in combating food insecurity, along with attendant policy concerns in providing food safely and efficiently on a regional, national, and global scale.

2 p.m. to 2:45 p.m. – Food Insecurity on the Local Level – Problems and Solutions; Panelists examine the current landscape of food insecurity in Arkansas and look at solutions that are being implemented in the state.

3 p.m. to 3:45 p.m. – Frontiers of Food Security – Social Justice Implications and Legislative Solutions; Access to food as a social justice issue: is there an affirmative duty of states to eliminate food insecurity through legislation and funding?  How can we harness the power of state agencies, state lawmaking authority to combat food insecurity? Should we? What are the boundaries?