Since 1978, Southwestern University in Georgetown has been hosting the Brown Symposium, an annual speaker series of academics, artists, authors and activists based around a single topic that is free for the public to attend. For the first time in its history, the two-day event, which takes place Monday and Tuesday in the Alma Thomas Fine Arts Center on the campus at 1001 E. University Avenue, is dedicated to food.

In support of the theme "Back to the Foodture: Sustainable Strategies to Reverse a Global Crisis," guests including Jo Luck, president of Heifer International, "Fast Food/Slow Food" author Richard Wilk, Native American activist Winona LaDuke and Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States, will talk about the globalized food system, the rise of veganism and industrialized agriculture and innovative solutions to help combat food shortages in various parts of the world.

Most of the speakers will present starting at 9:30 a.m. Monday, with Luck giving a keynote on Tuesday that will be followed by an empty bowl fundraiser lunch. (Attendees are also asked to bring nonperishable food that will be donated to local food banks.)

In addition to the speakers, a pop-up farmers' market will be open from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday in the Bishops Lounge. A ceramics art exhibit entitled "Culinary Cultures: A Ceramics Perspective" is on display in the Fine Arts Gallery through March 9.

In conjunction with the symposium, a group of Southwestern students has organized a free documentary film series that continues at 6:30 tonight with a screening of "Food Matters" in room 105 in the Olin building. At 7 p.m. March 7, they'll host a special screening of "Fresh" in the Campus Center Ballroom that will feature a talk from Ana Joanes, who directed and produced the movie.

Symposium organizer Laura Hobgood-Oster, a professor of religion and environmental studies, said she hopes people will come away from the symposium being more thoughtful about the food they eat. "We eat as we go without considering the impact of that food on the environment or on our own bodies and our health - or the joy of food," she says. For more information or to register, go to southwestern.edu/brownsymposium.

Sugary creations and classes that take the cake

Confectionery artists (and hundreds of us who are better at consuming sugar than decorating with it) will descend upon the North Austin Event Center, 10601 N. Lamar Blvd., this weekend for the eighth annual That Takes the Cake Sugar Arts Show. Each year, the Capital Confectioners' Cake Club, a local organization of cake bakers and sugar aficionados, brings together some of the top cake talent in the country for this two-day event that features classes, demonstrations, hands-on activities and entertainment. Show director Jennifer Bartos, who owns the Make It Sweet cake shop in North Austin, says the theme this year is "Cake-A-Lot: Knights of the Turn Table" and that more than 500 cakes will be on display. You can buy tickets at the door ($10 a day or $17 for a weekend pass; children under 18 are free; $1 off if you bring a nonperishable food item to donate to the Capital Area Food Bank). A portion of the proceeds will go to scholarships for local culinary students, and you can find out more at thattakesthecake.org.

Finding kid-friendly foods for any age

Cooking for young kids is hard for all kinds of reasons, and a number of new books aim to help you navigate the world of cooking for babies who have just transitioned to solid food, toddlers who don't want to eat anything and dishes that are good for breast-feeding moms.

"Parents Need to Eat Too" by Debbie Koenig (William Morrow, $16.99) promises to give nap-friendly recipes, one-handed meals and time-saving kitchen tricks for new parents. In Chapter 2, Koenig gives 19 recipes that can be made from start to finish during a nap time and then offers tips on how to get that baby to take a nap that's not on you. Chapter 7 gives recipes for quick last-minute dinners aimed at parents who work outside the home and also offers tips for breast-feeding moms on pumping during work.

Maggie Meade's "The Wholesome Baby Food Guide" (Grand Central Publishing, $15.99) offers more than 150 easy, delicious and healthy recipes for baby. Meade also breaks down what kinds of food to give baby at what age and how to spot a food allergy. The recipes are divided by age. If the jar isn't going to be your child's source of baby food, this could be a good guide for making food yourself.

The La Leche League International gives a blueprint for a lifetime of healthy meals in "Feed Yourself, Feed Your Family" (Ballantine Books, $20), which comes out next week. Recipe sections include all kinds of good nutritional advice, from vitamins in food to how much baby gas is OK. Each recipe is designated with a symbol to show if it's quick (less than 30 minutes of prep work), freezer-friendly, something that can be made ahead or a La Leche League member's favorite. The book also takes nutrition from nursing mom to feeding older kids.

- Nicole Villalpando

Galactic Granola Squares

They won't launch you into outer space, but these chewy bars may just send your milk supply soaring. They use a whopping nine ingredients considered lactogenic: oats, almonds, three types of seeds, honey, blackstrap molasses, nutritional yeast, and dried fruit. Blackstrap molasses, sold in health food stores, is nutritionally preferred over the regular variety because of its high iron content, which can help offset postpartum anemia. But if you'd rather not make a special trip, you'll be just fine with what you find in the supermarket. These squares are much too difficult for a new eater to chew safely, and thanks to concerns about botulism honey isn't allowed until a baby is a year old.

2 cups rolled oats (not instant)

1 cup sliced almonds

1/2 cup ground flaxseeds

1/2 cup raw sunflower or pumpkin seeds

1/4 cup sesame seeds

1/2 cup honey

1/4 cup blackstrap molasses

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

2 Tbsp. nutritional yeast, optional

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 tsp. cinnamon

Pinch of salt

1 cup chopped dried fruit (apricots, figs, and dates, or a combination)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8-inch square baking dish. Combine the oats, almonds, ground flaxseeds, sunflower seeds, and sesame seeds on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, 10 to 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the honey, molasses, butter, nutritional yeast, if using, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until butter has melted and nutritional yeast has fully dissolved.

When oat mixture is done, remove it from the oven and reduce the heat to 300 degrees. Add the oat mixture and the dried fruit to the liquid mixture, and stir to combine. Transfer mixture to the prepared baking dish and press down, evenly distributing it in the dish. Bake until firm to the touch, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool completely, then cut into 16 squares and store in an airtight container. Makes 16 squares.

- 'Parents Need to Eat Too' by Debbie Koenig (William Morrow, $16.99)

Vegan, vegetarian class features healing foods

• The Natural Epicurean, a vegan and vegetarian cooking school at 1700 S. Lamar Blvd., is hosting a daylong cooking class on Saturday, March 3, about the indigenous healing foods of Mexico. Leslie Korn and Ken Rubin will highlighted recipes from their book "Chocolate, Chilies, and Coconuts," which is slated to come out later this year. You can sign up for the hands-on workshop, which costs $220 and includes lunch and dinner, and find other upcoming classes online at naturalepicurean.com.

• IHOP's annual tradition of giving away pancakes to raise money for charity is getting a boost this year with the backing of Gov. Rick Perry and his wife, Anita, who recently commended the restaurant and Shriners in Texas, the beneficiary of the fundraiser. From 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday, guests are asked to make a donation in exchange for a plate of free pancakes, which will support the Shriners Hospitals for Children. Through this pancake day fundraiser, IHOP has helped raise almost $8 million for charity. For information, go to IHOPpancakeday.com.

• Cannoli Joe's, 4715 W. U.S. 290, is hosting its next cooking class with chef Quirino "Q" Silva at 6:30 p.m. Friday. Guests can enjoy a four-course meal while Silva demonstrates how to prepare each of the dishes. To reserve a space at the class, which costs $35, not including tax or gratuity, call 799-6884 or visit cannolijoes.com.