Join us March 6 at 11 am EST (5 pm CET/3 pm GMT/8 am PDT) as we delve more deeply into one of the most pervasive challenges to well-being, justice, and sustainability in the Anthropocene—the replacement of “real food” by ultra-processed food (UPF) “products” that harm individuals, communities, and the wider environment. Heavily engineered, hyperpalatable products are highly addictive, nutrient poor, energy dense, and laden with additives known to promote anxiety, depression, and aggression. They also directly contribute to the pandemic of noncommunicable diseases, including the global mental health crisis. The social, economic, and environmental costs of UPFs are unsustainable.
Our panelists will discuss how to address these “food crimes,” including the deliberate efforts to target vulnerable populations and the tactics of UPF “food giants” and their front groups to apply undue influence on nutritional guidelines and policies. We will underscore the imperative for equitable access to healthy, affordable, and sustainable “real” food—and the importance of worldviews, solutions, and social movements that place greater value on the well-being of people and planet than power and profit.
Program and Panelists
There will be a brief introduction from Susan Prescott, Director of the Nova Network, and Brian Berman, President and Founder of the Nova Institute for Health, after a general welcome and “mindful moment” from Rick Scott. Speakers will each be invited to speak for approximately 5-6 minutes, weaving their narrative threads to provide the fabric for discussion that all attendees can then contribute to.
Professor Brian Berman, MD, is President and Founder of Nova Institute for Health and Professor Emeritus at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, where he was Director of the Center for Integrative Medicine.
He is one of the most highly funded National Institutes of Health (NIH) researchers in the field of integrative and complementary medicine. A pioneer in the field and founder of the first U.S. academic medical center-based program for integrative medicine in 1991, he received two Bravewell Collaborative awards in leadership and service. He continues to conduct NIH-funded research at University of Maryland and promote a broad vision of health through leadership at Nova Institute for Health.
Introduction: Mobilizing Sequestered Capital and Stagnant Wealth for Community Benefit Requires Ethical and Cultural Transition
She is internationally recognized for cutting-edge research into early environmental determinants of health and disease. Her global work promotes awareness of the interconnections between personal and planetary health in a way that inspires wiser, creative, integrated approaches, grounded in reciprocity, for social and ecological justice and flourishing futures. She is also an artist and award-winning author.
“My passion is connecting people and ideas to create new opportunities.”
Food Crime: Deviance in the Food Industry is Harming People, Places, and Planet
Matthew Barnett Robinson is a full professor and criminologist at Appalachian State University in North Carolina with a PhD from Florida State University. His research interests include social justice, race and crime, criminological theory, the death penalty, and the “war on drugs.”
He has published more than twenty books, including Food Crime: An Introduction to Deviance in the Food Industry and The Drug Trade and the Criminal Justice System. His study of the use of capital punishment in North Carolina found that it was an ineffective deterrent and more costly than life imprisonment. He also challenged existing notions informing national drug policy, exposing inconsistencies in data analysis and reporting by the Office of National Drug Control Policy.
Ultra-Processed Food Addiction and Socioeconomic Injustice: Targeting Vulnerable Populations with Addictive “Food” Products Compounds Health Inequalities
Erica LaFata is an Assistant Research Professor at the Drexel University Center for Weight, Eating, and Lifestyle Science. She earned her doctoral degree in clinical psychology from the University of Michigan and completed her postdoctoral research fellowship with the Center for Weight and Eating Disorders at the University of Pennsylvania.
Erica’s program of research examines whether ultra-processed foods may be reinforcing in a manner that directly drives overeating and explores how core mechanisms of addictive disorders, like withdrawal, may contribute to eating-related problems for vulnerable individuals.
Generational Shifts in Gut Microbiota with More Processed Environments: Links to the Pandemic of Chronic Inflammatory Diseases
Erika Isolauri is Professor of Paediatrics at the University of Turku, Chief Physician of Department of Pediatrics at Turku University Hospital, and Head of the Department of Clinical Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Turku, Finland.
She is internationally recognized for her work on early life nutrition and the microbiome, including the effects of probiotics in allergy and immunometabolic disorders. She has received numerous academic honors including the John Harris Prize from the European Society for Paediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition, the Niilo Hallman prize from the Foundation for Paediatric Research, Finland, the Matti Äyräpää Award from The Finnish Medical Society Duodecim, and many others.
Food, Microbes, and Aggressive Behavior: Can Antisocial Behavior be Influenced by the Microbiome?
Samuli Rautava is the Head of Neonatology at Helsinki University Hospital and Associate Professor of Neonatology at the University of Helsinki in Helsinki, Finland.
His research is based on the general hypothesis that early contact with microbes and particularly the indigenous intestinal microbiota has a significant long-term impact on health and the risk of chronic immunoinflammatory disease. His translational research project consists of birth cohort register studies, utilization of machine learning on big data, nested case-control studies as well as experimental models and randomized clinical trials to establish causality.
Food and Punishment: Lessons from Impact Justice's Food in Prison Project
Leslie Soble is a Senior Program Manager at Impact Justice where she manages Impact Justice’s Food in Prison Project and is the lead author of the organization’s national report, Eating Behind Bars: Ending the Hidden Punishment of Food in Prison.
An ethnographer and folklorist specializing in food and foodways, she has spent more than five years immersed in research and program development addressing the carceral eating experience and its impacts on individuals, communities, and the environment. Leslie is also the founder and artistic director of “Story Soup,” a project that creates contexts for dialogue across cultural and generational borders through food and narrative.
Exposing the Tactics of Food Giants: Progress toward Corporate Accountability in the Food System
She leads the research team on strategic campaign development, corporate research, and equity-centered analysis of corporate power across issues that guide the vision and overall success. Ashka also leads CA’s food program, focusing on structural determinants and sociopolitical dimensions of food systems, nutrition, and public health, while exposing industry’s interference and influence in the policies and the politics of food security, sovereignty, and justice across the world, especially the Global South. Ashka is currently pursuing her doctorate at the University of Massachusetts Boston.