The media is affecting what you eat, according to a conference on food, journalism and public policy held yesterday at Kerrytown Market and Shops.

A gang of journalists, professors and spectators gathered under a tent in Kerrytown for the event hosted by the Knight-Wallace Journalism Fellows. Among the 15 speakers were University President Mary Sue Coleman, New York Times columnist R. W. Apple Jr. and Dean of Social Work Paula Allen-Meares.

Spicy issues led to a double helping of debate. Topics of concern and interest that came to light during the panel discussion included food as a symbol of cultural and social change in America, eating disorders and the obesity crisis, school lunch programs and the Atkins diet.

Several of the speakers identified obesity as a critical concern, also bringing up issues of how genetics, diets and drugs are weighing in on the problem.

One of the more colorful attendees was New York Times associate editor “Johnny” Apple. Apple chose to forgo the conventional roles as a war correspondent and Washington bureau chief in favor of the more pleasure-oriented journalism of culinary arts and culture. After years of covering hard-hitting topics, Apple now prefers writing on what he calls “The Great Unifier,” also known as food.

In the process of researching a book about regional food in America and its ties to history and culture, Apple linked many topics. For example, he said he believes our “immigrant heritage resisted investment in a new food culture of our own until recently.”

Allen-Meares discussed the various food-related research projects that the University is currently involved in. These include studies on eating disorders, obesity, nutrition and diabetes and also “how household food insufficiencies affect poor women.”

Coleman offered her support to the affair also, citing both her obsession with the Food Network and her ability to empathize with the sensation of being “regularly roasted, skewered, sliced and diced” on her new job.

The annual conference is hosted by the Knight-Wallace Journalism Fellows, which decided this year to tackle the topic of how food and food policy is treated in the media due to its recent dramatic growth in popularity as a subject. Last year’s topic, “Covering Permanent War”, attended by NBC anchor and correspondent Ashleigh Banfield, also prompted a lighter issue for yesterday’s conference. According to Knight-Wallace Fellows Director Charles Eisendrath, who was also the conference moderator, the past few years have featured “downer topics.”

The Knight Wallace Fellows program provides mid-career journalists with a sabbatical year of study and reflection. The fellowship administrators seek out those who have demonstrated superior ability, commitment and leadership. Former fellows include Mike Wallace, Good Morning America co-host Charles Gibson and Henry Allen of the Washington Post.








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