Plate, Palate and Ballot sets table for discussion on food, politics

Thursday, October 7, 2010 | 12:52 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — The number of obese adults in the U.S. has doubled since 1980, and the health threat is more acute for youth: Obesity rates for adolescents between the age of 12 and 19 have tripled since 1970, and the rate for children from 6 to 11 has quadrupled.

Those findings, detailed in the 2010 report F as in Fat, How Obesity Threatens America's Future from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, drive the perspective of MU Professor Emeritus John Ikerd that the industrial food system — rather than individuals — is most to blame.

Plate, Palate & Ballot


What: Plate, Palate & Ballot: How Community Health Issues Intersect Animal Agriculture and Local Politics

Where: Columbia Public Library, 100 West Broadway

When: Panel discussion 2 to 3:30 p.m. Sunday; workshops from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. on state and county legislation, Proposition B and regulating dog breeders, health and nutrition and environmental implications.

Ikerd said some people might blame overweight and obese people for their own health problems, criticizing them for not choosing proper foods or taking the initiative to exercise. He suspects the rise in obesity rates in the past 50 years reflects changes in the food system: the industrialization of agriculture, an increase in large processing facilities and the spread of fast-food franchises.

Ikerd believes the nutritional value of food has been lost through these changes.

“In the process of making food cheap, we’ve created a real health problem,” he said.

The agricultural economist and author will discuss the food system, obesity and how the two tie into politics when he delivers the keynote speech at the second Plate, Palate and Ballot event at 2 p.m. Sunday in the Columbia Public Library.

The event, sponsored by the Mid Missouri Animal Legislation, features a panel of community members, politicians and activists, who will speak about food, health, agriculture and politics. The panel also includes:

“Even though the Mid Missouri Animal Legislation is an animal welfare group, the main umbrella of this event is food,” Mid Missouri Animal Legislation director Daria Kerridge said.

Kerridge feels a growing public concern about the food supply and the prevalence of food recalls is fueling people's interest in organic food and farmers markets.

After the speakers’ presentations, the panel and audience will break into four workshops.

Kerridge said the event is an opportunity for community members to freely converse with community leaders and politicians.

“I’m excited about this conversation between many facets of the community and having legislators there to hear that conversation,” Kerridge said.

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