The Choices and Challenges project at Virginia Tech is hosting a daylong program of interactive sessions, expert panels, and discussions on the complexities of food choices in light of nutrition, environmental sustainability, economic well-being, and social justice.

This public forum brings together a range of scholars, policymakers, and citizens to discuss the varied and sometimes conflicting dimensions of what makes food good and how society chooses what food to produce, buy, and eat. Entitled “What is Good Food?,” the event will be held on Thursday, Oct. 27, at the Lyric Theatre and the Graduate Life Center at Donaldson Brown. This forum is open to the public at no charge.

“Food occupies a large part of both public and private lives and is ever present in the news and public life,” said Choices and Challenges co-coordinator Saul Halfon, associate professor of science and technology in society in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. “It is a broad and complex topic that spans science and aesthetics, politics and culture, technology and taste.

“This forum brings together people who don’t often get a chance to talk to each other about these issues: food scientists talking with local food growers; nutrition experts with food economists; consumers with producers, ” added Halfon, associate professor in the Department of Science and Technology in Society in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences.

The forum will begin at 9:30 a.m., with background sessions on a range of topics. The main panel, at 11 a.m., in the Lyric Theatre, will be moderated by Barbara Bekken, associate professor of geosciences in the College of Science and former director of Virginia Tech’s Earth Sustainability Program.

The panel will include the following experts:

  • Julie Guthman, professor of community studies at University of California Santa Cruz. Her research considers various social movement efforts to transform the way food is produced, distributed, and consumed.
  • Karen Karp, founder of Karp Resources, a food business consultancy that works with leaders in government, business and non-profit organizations.
  • Fred Kirschenmann, third generation farmer and President of Kirschenmann Family Farms, a 2,600-acre certified organic farm in North Dakota and professor at Iowa State University.
  • Danielle Nierenberg, an expert on livestock and sustainable agriculture innovation, who spent the last year in sub-Saharan Africa looking at environmentally sustainable ways of alleviating hunger and poverty.
  • Rachel Schurman, associate professor of sociology and global studies at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. Her primary interests include the political economy of food and agriculture.

A series of background and follow-up sessions, at the Graduate Life Center, beginning at 9:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., respectively, will allow for audience participation. Session topics include food ethics, food policies, the political economy of food, local food, food technology, and obesity and nutrition.

At 4 p.m., in collaboration with the Choices and Challenges forum, the Theatre Workshop in Science, Technology, and Society, also known as TWISTS, will present an original and interactive workshop/performance entitled “Food Stories.” This event will take place in the Torgersen Hall Museum on the Virginia Tech campus. Using forum and community theater techniques, “Food Stories” will portray ideas and stories gathered from around the local community and ask the audience to engage with and respond to what they see. This workshop group has developed two previous performances: “Nuclear Power Play” and “Living Darwin.”

The Choices and Challenges Project was established in 1985, and has presented annual forums on issues of public concern involving science and technology. For more information, contact Daniel Breslau (231-8472), Eileen Crist (231-5195), or Saul Halfon (231-1648).