Input sought from food researchers hungry for campus collaborations

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What’s one area of interest that all seven of Stanford’s schools have in common? Food.

An unusual gathering planned for Nov. 3 will unite experts from fields ranging from education to engineering to medicine who want to work with other researchers and students on campus to develop broad-based answers to the world’s food problems.

The Food Summit will be a daylong gathering at the Arrillaga Alumni Center for Stanford faculty, postdocs and graduate and undergraduate students with an interest in food-related research. Organizers want participants to weigh in now to help select the topics for the workshops that will take place that afternoon.

“The audience will get to define what the afternoon sessions are all about,” said summit organizer Christopher Gardner, PhD, associate professor of medicine at the Stanford Prevention Research Center.

The event is free, but those who wish to attend must register online to reserve a seat by going to the event’s website at and following the link for registration.

The website also gives an overview of the morning sessions, which will consist of several panel discussions featuring experts from all seven schools on food-related issues. At the end of each session, a panel of students will pose questions to the faculty experts.

After a lunch of seasonal, sustainable foods prepared by Stanford Dining, participants will break into six to 10 smaller sessions for the afternoon. The goal of each session is to generate a fundable, interdisciplinary research proposal.

On the website, registrants are encouraged to vote for the afternoon sessions that interest them most, as well as suggesting other topics for consideration. Some initial topic suggestions include food security, social movements connected with food and alternatives to factory farming. The sessions earning the most votes by Oct. 15 will be offered at the summit.

“This is intended to be a solution-oriented gathering,” said Gardner. “We want people both internally and externally to better appreciate that Stanford has the capacity and the breadth of expertise to solve some of the enormous food-related problems that exist today.”

Gardner, whose own research focuses on nutrition and diet, got the idea for the summit after doing a little snooping around to find other researchers at Stanford who were studying food. He found scores of people throughout the campus who were approaching food issues in areas ranging from law to business to earth sciences. Gardner and the others felt there were probably still other faculty and students who were either interested in, or already pursuing, food-related projects, and decided to host the summit to help forge even more connections between researchers.

“With our location so close to California’s Central Valley, we feel that Stanford can set the pace in addressing the environmental, social, medical, business, educational and legal issues relating to food,” he said.

Gardner sees the summit as just the starting point. The longer-term plan is to organize a regular seminar series where experts can address the topics raised at the Nov. 3 event, and he hopes the gathering will spark collaborations among those who attend.

In addition to the faculty, postdocs and students attending the summit, Gardner and the organizers are inviting a select group of community stakeholders, policymakers and charitable foundations that could potentially help fund the research proposals that arise from the afternoon sessions.

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