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UMSL conference focuses on urban food

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By Véronique LaCapra, St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis, MO – The University of Missouri-St. Louis is hosting its annual "What is a City?" conference.

This year the multidisciplinary event is focusing on food.

Dr. John Butterly of Dartmouth Medical School kicked off the two-day conference with an overview of the biology and politics of world hunger.

He said that hunger and malnutrition are caused not by a lack of food, but by a lack of access. "In all modern famines, there has always been enough food," Butterly said. "It's just not distributed equitably."

Butterly said that although the technology already exists to produce enough healthy food for everyone, there hasn't been the political will to guarantee everyone access to that food supply.

Also speaking at the conference, historian Linda Aleci of Franklin & Marshall College in Pennsylvania said the U.S. needs to aggressively rethink its food production and distribution system.

She said that right now, government policies favor agricultural business interests at the expense of providing food security to low-income urban communities. "Food is still considered a commodity, it's treated as a commodity, and until we start looking at it as a public good, we're going to be stuck on the same old problem."

Other topics to be discussed at the conference include nutrition, food safety, and urban farming.

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