Defining Good Food: UVM Presents 5th Annual Food Systems Summit June 14-15

By Hailey Grohman

In Vermont, as in much of the rest of the world, the debate around “good” food plays out every day in different spheres. Our classrooms, courtrooms, boardrooms and dining rooms are all spaces in which the decisions made can have enormous consequences. In a globalized world, with a highly polarized political climate, the stakes are high when it comes to navigating opinions about the characteristics of good food.

That’s why the slippery nature of “What Makes Food Good?” is the central question of the 2016 UVM Food Systems Summit, celebrating its fifth year, on June 14-15 at the University of Vermont in Burlington, Vermont.

Raj PatelRaj Patel addresses attendees at the 2015 Food Systems Summit. (Photo: Ian Thomas Jansen-Lonnquist

“To decide what makes food good is complex. In fact, we all use many and varied means to arrive at conclusions, for ourselves, for our communities and for our society,” said Amy Trubek, faculty director of theUVM Food Systems Graduate Program.

No one person or perspective can answer the question alone. For this reason, UVM invites scholars, farmers, scientists, practitioners and other stakeholders to come together at the Food Systems Summit to discuss these questions and many others, while immersed Vermont’s innovative and unique food system.

As in past years, the summit will feature three keynote speakers, who will address current issues in the food system in response to the summit theme. New this year are participant-organized sessions, which were chosen through an innovative process: sessions were proposed online and participants were invited to vote on which they wanted to see offered at the summit. These concurrent sessions will cover a wide breadth of topics including systems thinking, food ethics, farmworker justice, prison gardens and many others.

“UVM is a leading academic institution in the study of food systems, known for its transdisciplinary approach to solving complex problems. Vermont is a small state, but our close-knit communities are similar to other communities anywhere, and our ideas about good food can translate to much larger spheres,” said Doug Lantagne, director of the UVM Food Systems Initiative.

This year’s keynote speakers are:

  • Rachel A. Ankeny, an interdisciplinary teacher and scholar whose areas of expertise include food studies. She is professor of history in the School of Humanities and associate dean of research and deputy dean in the Faculty of Arts at the University of Adelaide, Australia, where she leads the Food Values Research Group.
  • M. Jahi Chappell, senior staff scientist at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. Jahi has consulted for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the city of Belo Horizonte and La Via Campesina. Jahi holds a doctorate in ecology and evolutionary biology from the University of Michigan and conducted postdoctoral research in the Department of Science and Technology Studies at Cornell University.

The summit will also offer a number of supplementary events, including a film screening, a garden tour and a cheesemaking workshop. Participants may sign up for these additional activities when they register for the summit.

The UVM Food Systems Summit will be held at the Davis Center on the University of Vermont campus. For more information and to register, visit

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