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By Margot D. Dionne, Contributing Writer

Dozens gathered at the Law School Friday to discuss the importance of nutrition and to consider how people can gain access to healthy food in the United States.

The Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation of Harvard Law School partnered with Community Servings, a nonprofit nutrition program in Massachusetts, to host the fourth annual Food is Medicine Symposium. The evening consisted of two panel discussions and a lecture from keynote speaker Timothy S. Harlan, the executive director of the Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine at Tulane University. The center is the first teaching kitchen opened at a medical school, according to the center's website.

“Food is medicine, and it plays such a big role,” Samantha L. Hooper, an executive at a public relations firm that works with Community Servings, said.

The first set of panelists discussed the role of food banks in solving the problem of food insecurity, the inability for people to consistently get healthy food. Kim Prendergast, a panelist from the non nonprofit Feeding America, said during the event that 12.7 percent of U.S. households are food-insecure.

The second panel focused on medically tailored food, which provides adequate nutrition for people with dietary restrictions because of a chronic illness. Community Servings, which was founded in 1989 to provide food for HIV and AIDS patients, provides medically tailored food to about 1,100 clients with 35 different illnesses, CEO David B. Waters said.

“I fell in love with the idea of feeding people who were sick and low income so I started at Community Servings when they were first founded,” Waters said in an interview after the event.

Harlan ended the night with a lecture about nutrition and his role at the Goldring Center. He livened the crowd with jokes and anecdotes.

“I changed the way I cook and became very interested in health in general,” Harlan said in an interview.

About 100 people showed up to hear the panelists. Phuong Ho, a volunteer at Community Servings, said she enjoyed the event because it focused on an issue she cares about.

“I volunteer with Community Servings and I am on their mailing list so that’s how I heard about it,” Ho said. “Food insecurity is a really big interest of mine so this was a nice connecting talk to go see these leaders.”

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