Food at the Policy Level
I really never thought I would care about a farm bill. After all, I’m not a farmer. But I do like to eat high quality, locally grown food. As such, I find that I do care about the farm bill after all, and, if you are at all interested in having access to a variety of locally grown food, you should, too.
Last weekend I had the opportunity to hear to Mark Winne , co-founder and communications director of the Community Food Security Coalition , speak about why, along with all the other current efforts to increase the availability of locally grown food, it is important to bring food to the policy level locally, state-wide and nationally. Food policy, according to Winne, incorporates "the actions and inactions by government that influence the supply, quality, price, production, distribution, and consumption of food."
Why food as policy? Because, as Winne pointed out, despite the heroic efforts of nonprofit organizations (farmers’ markets, CSAs, community gardens), CDCs, faith-based organizations (food pantries, food banks), and government services (food stamps, WIC, etc.), “there is little or no access to healthy and affordable food, especially in lower income communities, there is limited transportation in many urban and rural communities, there is limited access to markets that provide fair prices to farmers, and there is a steady loss of farmland across the nation. At the same time, 11% of people in the U.S. are hungry or ‘food insecure,’ over 60% of Americans are overweight or obese, there is an epidemic of Type II diabetes, and there is limited nutritional education in the schools.”
Increasingly, Winne and others advocate that, along with the types of efforts mentioned above, food policy councils should be formed at the local level. “Food Policy Councils convene citizens and government officials for the purpose of providing a comprehensive examination of a state or local food system. This unique, non-partisan form of civic engagement brings together a diverse array of food system stakeholders to develop food and agriculture policy recommendations.” Many communities already have FPCs. To find out if your community has a FPC, check out this website: http://www.statefoodpolicy.org/profiles.htm.
But, even if you aren’t quite ready to start your own food policy council, there are other ways to start to put food at the policy level in your community:
If enough people care and enough people act, Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore's Dilemma, may just be right when he says, “
the politics of food have changed, and probably for good. If the eaters and all the other 'people on the outside' make themselves heard, we just might end up with something that looks less like a farm bill and more like the food bill a poorly fed America so badly needs.”