"Fast Food Nation" author, Eric Schlosser

“Fast Food Nation” author Eric Schlosser

Capitalizing on the visit of His Royal Highness Prince Charles and Duchess Camilla, the Institute for Healthy Air, Water and Soil brought together experts on health and wellness from all around the world for a two-day “Urban Laboratory” at the Seelbach Hotel on Thursday (and elsewhere on Friday). The causes of food literacy and environmental science are passions of the Prince and Duchess.

The event was hosted by Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, the IHAWS, the Berry Center and Christina Lee Brown.

Considering the heavy-hitters on the panel, the crowd was surprisingly small. Brown said that because of the Royal visit, details of the event had to be secret and invite-only. HRH and the Duchess will be joining the event later today as the first stop on their Louisville tour.

On Thursday, the “Harmony and Health Initiative” featured keynote speakers who moderated expert panels. Today there will be break-out groups and further discussion at the African-American Cultural Center in west Louisville.

Yesterday, Gary Hirshberg, chairman of the “Just Label It!” campaign and chairman and former president and CEO of Stoneyfield Farm, an organic yogurt company based in New Hampshire, was on one of the panels. “Just Label It!” is a nonprofit that urges food companies to label genetically modified products so people can make informed decisions about what they eat.

He said the U.S. Northeast Whole Foods grocery stores were letting the brand try out edible frozen yogurt containers. The packaging of the frozen yogurt is edible and can be flavored so you could have a coconut-covered mango frozen yogurt, for example.

He said that decades ago, recycling was the holy grail of environmentalism, but now we realize there are huge costs associated with recycling. The real cost-saver and best answer to landfill crises is to use less packaging.

Louisville’s businessman and philanthropist Owsley Brown III gave the keynote speech for the “Promoting wellbeing: Economic challenges in the social and cultural spheres” panel. Food superstars Chef Alice Waters of the elite organic restaurant Chez Panisse and “Fast Food Nation” author Eric Schlosser were on the panel.

Schlosser spoke on the interconnectedness between social justice and safety and health. He spoke about how hard food justice was to tackle when residents of food deserts also worry for their safety.

Legendary chef Alice Waters.

Legendary chef Alice Waters

Alice Waters, chef of the top-tier restaurant Le Panisse and visionary behind the “Edible Schoolyard” movement, spoke with great passion to the crowd.

This year is the 20th anniversary of the Edible Schoolyard — Waters didn’t want just a garden in a rundown school yard in San Francisco, she wanted a kitchen classroom and a cafeteria where all the kids could eat together and for free. She wanted local farmers and ranchers to tend the land and participate with the school.

The speakers at yesterday’s event came from all over the world, as far as Finland. Most will rejoin the event again today.