Meeting of the minds at Farm Journal Forum's obesity and hunger panel

By Aarian Marshall

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WASHINGTON, Dec. 6, 2012 - Hunger and obesity experts asked fellow advocates today to help them “break down silos” and provoke dialogue between the agricultural and hunger experts during a panel hosted by the Farm Journal Forum.

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“What you probably don't think about - what you do everyday with ag policy - is part of the healthcare system, is part of the national security system,” Robin Schepper, senior advisor for the Nutrition and Physical Activity Initiative at the Bipartisan Policy Center, argued during the morning Farm Journal Forum session.

Schepper recently served as the executive director of the First Lady's Let's Move! Initiative, which seeks to remedy the nation's childhood obesity epidemic.

Bruce Knight, President of Strategic Conservation Solutions, Lindsey Palmer, director of nutrition and community outreach for DC Central Kitchen, and Lisa Sutherland, a career nutritionist, joined Schepper in a discussion that largely resisted the silver bullet narrative. The deep and complex problems of hunger and obesity, the panelists argued, do not have a single solution. Rather, effectively and efficiently implemented policy changes need to be coupled with cultural shifts that begin in the home.

Schepper offered the example of military recruits: Today, 27 percent of those who wish to join up, she said, cannot pass the necessary fitness tests. Many soldiers she has worked with do not realize the effects of diet on their job performance - that a donut, for example, cannot properly fuel a soldier for a day of training in the way that a USDA-approved and balanced breakfast can.

Experts from all sectors of government, the panelists stressed, should be involved in the dialogue surrounding the “nutrition paradox” - the tricky fact that obese children can also be hungry ones. “We're at a crossroad,” Sutherland said, and we “need to decide which way we want to go.”


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