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Virginia Food Security Summit to be held Dec. 5 and 6 in Charlottesville, Va.

BLACKSBURG, Va., Dec. 2, 2011 – Food advocates from across Virginia will gather in Charlottesville, Va., for the second annual Virginia Food Security Summit, “Connecting Our Farms, Food, Health and Environment,” on Dec. 5 and 6 at the University of Virginia.

The conference will focus on food security issues in Virginia and will include farm, food, and health advocates from across the state and country. Conference attendees will develop ideas to increase access to healthy, nutritious food in Virginia, and help launch the Virginia Farm to Table Plan, the state’s first statewide strategic food security plan.

Farmers, producers, representatives of non-profits, government officials, entrepreneurs, students and concerned citizens are encouraged to attend.

A number of local and national leaders and innovators will discuss current trends in the food system, including:

  • Kathleen Merrigan, deputy secretary of agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture;
  • Fred Kirschenmann, distinguished fellow, Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Ames, Iowa;
  • Ken Meter, president, Crossroads Resource Center, Minneapolis, Minn.;
  • Jeffrey Plank, associate vice president, Office of the Vice President for Research, University of Virginia;
  • Renard Turner, owner, Vanguard Ranch Ltd., Louis County;
  • Heidi Hertz, obesity prevention coordinator, Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth;
  • Tanya Denckla Cobb, associate director, Institute for Environmental Negotiation, University of Virginia;
  • Eric Bendfeldt, Virginia Cooperative Extension and founding member and coordinator, Virginia Food System Council;
  • Lynda Fanning, founding member, Virginia Food System Council;
  • Spencer Neale, commodity marketing specialist, Virginia Farm Bureau Federation;
  • Tony Wilt, delegate, 26th District of Va.;
  • Jewel Hairston, interim dean, School of Agriculture, Virginia State University;
  • Andrea Early, school nutrition director, Harrisonburg City Public Schools Nutrition Program;
  • Dina Sorenson, VMDO Architects, Charlottesville and Buckingham County;
  • Emily Manley, outreach and development director, Local Food Hub, Charlottesville;
  • Molly Harris, founder, Lulus Local Food, Richmond;
  • Mark Lilly, founder, Farm to Family, Richmond;
  • Francis Ngoh, shiitake mushroom grower and distributor, Faquier County;
  • Stephen Kendall, procurement manager, D.C. Central Kitchen; and
  • Phil Petrilli, regional director, Mid-Atlantic region, Chipotle Mexican Grill.

The conference is open to anyone working in or with an interest in the food system, including those in agriculture, food, health, nutrition, government, and education. Attendees will also have the opportunity to showcase their own work in a poster exhibit at the end of the conference.

Registration for both days of the conference is $55, $45 for Dec. 6 only, and $15 for Dec. 5 only. Scholarships are available to ensure everyone who wants to attend is able to do so. The conference will be held at Jefferson Scholars Foundation Hall on Dec. 5, and U.Va. Alumni Hall on Dec. 6.  For more information and to register, visit the Virginia Food Summit website.

This event is hosted by the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, Virginia State University School of Agriculture, Washington and Lee University, Virginia Food System Council, Piedmont Environmental Council, and the U.Va. Food Collaborative.

Nationally ranked among the top research institutions of its kind, Virginia Tech’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences focuses on the science and business of living systems through learning, discovery, and engagement. The college’s comprehensive curriculum gives more than 3,100 students in a dozen academic departments a balanced education that ranges from food and fiber production to economics to human health. Students learn from the world’s leading agricultural scientists, who bring the latest science and technology into the classroom.

Virginia Cooperative Extension brings the resources of Virginia's land-grant universities, Virginia Tech and Virginia State University, to the people of the commonwealth. Through a system of on-campus specialists and locally based educators, it delivers education in the areas of agriculture and natural resources, family and consumer sciences, community viability, and 4-H youth development. With a network of faculty at two universities, 107 county and city offices, 11 agricultural research and Extension centers, and six 4-H educational centers, Virginia Cooperative Extension provides solutions to the problems facing Virginians today.

Written by Kelly Robinson, a senior majoring in communications and international studies and an intern for the Office of Communications and Marketing in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.