Our planet produces enough food to feed every man, woman and child 4.3 lbs. of nutritious food each day, and yet 800 million people worldwide remain malnourished. In the richest nation on earth, 10 million households between 1996 and 1998 lacked adequate access to enough food to meet their basic nutritional needs, with one in three forced to choose between buying groceries and paying rent. In Montana, where agricultural products are the state’s chief export, more than 10 percent of all households lack access to adequate food, including the one in four children who live in poverty.
Whether you focus globally or locally, on Bangladesh or Blaine County, the numbers are both stark and mind-numbing. Which is why this week the 17th annual Mansfield Conference focuses its attention on global hunger, sustainable food systems, food security and the controversial topic of genetically modified foods.
The Nov. 19-21 conference, sponsored by the Mansfield Center at the University of Montana, will feature a performance by the Lily Cai Chinese Dance Company, a San Francisco troupe that blends ancient dances of the Chinese dynasties with modern forms of dance and ballet, original music and multimedia designs. This world-renowned company performs Tuesday Nov. 21 to benefit the Missoula Food Bank and Garden City Harvest.
This year’s keynote speakers come to Missoula with a wealth of expertise on food policy, security and agricultural reform. Among them is Dr. Robert Paarlberg, an associate at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University and a professor of political science at Wellesley College. Paarlberg has worked extensively both here and abroad on food policy issues and has written a number of books on international agriculture and environmental policy, environmentally sustainable farming and the use of food as a weapon. He will be speaking on “the global food fight and genetically modified foods,” and will be joined by William Harrop, director of the American Academy of Diplomacy and a former ambassador to Israel, Kenya, Zaire, Seychelles and Guinea.
Also speaking will be Dr. Frances Moore Lappe, author of the international bestseller, Diet for a Small Planet, which has sold more than 3 million copies worldwide, as well as 11 other acclaimed works. Lappe, a visiting scholar at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and co-founder of the Institute for Food and Development Policy, has received 15 honorary doctorate degrees and in 1987 was awarded the Right Livelihood Award in Sweden, often called the “alternative Nobel prize.” She is speaking on nutrition, agriculture and biotechnology.
All conference events are open to the public and free, except the dance performance by Lily Cai, which is $5 per ticket. For more information, call (406) 243-2988.