Michelle Obama might speak in Columbia

The Life Sciences and Society Program wants her to speak at its spring event.

If the situation swings the right way, First Lady Michelle Obama might visit the MU in the spring.

From March 16 to 18, the Life Sciences and Society Program will hold its annual symposium, called Food Sense, on food and its impact on society.

According to the Let’s Move website, the symposium is an investigation to explain why people eat a certain way. It will examine biological triggers, cultural norms, economic activity and social activity and how individuals, communities and societies as a whole can make healthy decisions in the current environment.

“We’re focusing on the cultural and biological components of taste,” co-chairwoman of the planning committee Stefani Engelstein said. “What makes up the way we taste food and the food we choose to eat? Because we believe there are cultural as well as biological elements, we are gathering experts from the social sciences and humanities as well as the sciences to speak about it.”

Because of Let's Play, the First Lady’s initiative to end child obesity through improved eating habits and increased exercise, Obama seemed to be a perfect fit for the conference, event organizers said.

“She’s trying to make people, especially children, more aware of how important it is to eat right and exercise,” Engelstein said. “She is not only trying to raise awareness, but she is also trying to change the culture of eating.”

Obama has not yet confirmed that she will visit, and the symposium is unlikely to find out until days before the conference.

“We don’t expect to know soon if she’s interested,” Engelstein said. “We know they’ve received our formal invitation, and we have spoken to her staff about it.”

In order to increase support for her visit, the Food Sense program has set up a social media movement.

“We need your help to show Obama how enthusiastic the community is about the possibility of her visit,” Engelstein said. “We have a Twitter feed and a Facebook page for people to check out.”

Even if Obama was to decline, the symposium would still feature a wide variety of speakers, such as experts in nutrition, taste science, psychology, cultural studies, chefs and food-science journalists, according to the website.

“We also have the best-selling author of 'Mindless Eating,' Brian Wansink, and the mad scientist of 'Good Eats' on the Food Network, Shirley Corriher,” Engelstein said.

Other invited speakers include Kathleen Merrigan, the deputy secretary of agriculture, and Judy Baker, the director of the United States Department of Health and Human Services in Missouri, Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska.

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