Penn conference to tackle urban food security

Feeding Cities

An aerial view of Beijing, China’s capital and second-largest city with more than 20 million people. The “Feeding Cities” conference will address two pressing global trends: urbanization and food insecurity.

There will be 6 billion people living in cities by 2050, says Eugenie Birch, co-director of the Penn Institute of Urban Research (Penn IUR), “and they all have to be fed.”

An international conference scheduled for March 13-15 at Penn will address two pressing global trends: urbanization and food insecurity.

Held in Houston Hall, “Feeding Cities: Food Security in a Rapidly Urbanizing World” will be the first conference to address these two issues in tandem. Hosted by Penn IUR, the symposium is being presented in collaboration with the schools of Arts & Sciences, Design, Education, Law, Medicine, Nursing, Social Policy, Veterinary Medicine, and Wharton.

Ensuring food security around the globe is a multi-faceted problem to which each of these diverse fields can contribute. In veterinary medicine, for example, a major challenge is that food animals generally live in rural settings.

“Training professionals to work in rural settings when virtually all students have an urban or suburban background is extremely difficult,” says Joan Hendricks, dean of Penn Vet.

Birch, who is also the Nussdorf Professor of Urban Research in the School of Design, hopes that the 250 to 300 people expected to attend the conference, including members of the Penn community, as well as private and public decision makers, will take away valuable information that can be used to inform everything from veterinary medicine to city planning. At Penn, she believes one major outcome will be a growth in collaboration across the University.

“‘Feeding Cities’ will help us see what we can do at Penn to foster more work, more research, and more education on these topics,” she says. “We’ve already found that people are very interested in working together on interdisciplinary problems and this conference will help those conversations continue.”

More than 60 experts from around the world will present at the conference; notable speakers include Joan Clos, executive director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme; Yael Lehmann, executive director of The Food Trust; and Ridwan Kamil, founder and principal of Urbane Indonesia. Several Penn faculty members will also speak.

“Feeding Cities” kicks off in the evening of Wednesday, March 13, with a forum on food systems in 21st century cities, and will continue with daylong programs on Thursday and Friday, featuring keynote addresses, plenaries, and breakout sessions.

At a reception on Thursday evening, prizes will be awarded to the winners of a juried photo contest associated with the conference, curated by PennDesign’s Joshua Mosley. The photographs will all touch upon the conference’s theme of nourishing a rapidly urbanizing world. A Friday evening reception will conclude the conference. 

Registration for the conference is $5 for PennCard holders and students, and $25 for general admission. To register, or for more information and a complete conference schedule, visit the “Feeding Cities” website

Originally published on February 28, 2013