By Claire Benjamin Since the California Republican broke with his party to oppose cuts to food stamps, Rep. Valadao (R-CA) has been on the front lines in the fight to make America’s food less nutritious. This month, Valadao (R-CA) joined a letter to USDA to reduce whole grains and increase sodium in school meals our school food and maintain the status…
By Claire Benjamin
Since the California Republican broke with his party to oppose cuts to food stamps, Rep. Valadao (R-CA) has been on the front lines in the fight to make America’s food less nutritious.
In March, Valadao was among 67 members of Congress who sent a letter urging the USDA to reject the Institute of Medicine’s recommendations, and include white potatoes as part of the Women, Infant and Children (WIC) supplemental nutrition food package.
Valadao is a member of a House spending subcommittee slated to take up these issues on Tuesday.
Although Valadao represents the “salad bowl” of California’s central valley, too many children in Kern, Tulare, Fresno and Kings counties are struggling with obesity.
So, why is Valadao, fighting to roll back school nutrition standards and include potatoes in the WIC program?
Or, could it be that Valadao, a dairy farmer, knows more about the nutritional needs of 9 million low-income women and young children?
Of course, it’s not just Republicans who are leading the charge to weaken federal nutrition programs. Rep. Collin Peterson, the senior Democrat on the House Committee on Agriculture, signed both letters.
The House and Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittees are scheduled to consider annual funding bills Tuesday May 20, 2014
By Tom Colicchio I’m a chef, a food activist, an avid eater, and a healthy-cooking parent, though most people know me from my role as head judge on Bravo’s Top Chef. All of the above warrant my inclusion in what is known as the Food Movement. So you may be surprised to learn that lately I’ve…
By Tom Colicchio
I’m a chef, a food activist, an avid eater, and a healthy-cooking parent, though most people know me from my role as head judge on Bravo’s Top Chef. All of the above warrant my inclusion in what is known as the Food Movement.
So you may be surprised to learn that lately I’ve been asking myself this question:
Is there actually a Food Movement?
25 years ago, as a fledgling chef, I didn’t ask these sorts of questions. I started purchasing fresh food for my restaurant from farmer’s markets because it tasted better. Back then I could actually back my truck up into the market at Union Square and load up on root vegetables and fresh herbs from Guy Jones and the other early farmers who sold vegetables there. I was buying local and organic — not because I was concerned about the environment or farm workers — but because it simply tasted better and my goal at the time was to be the best chef I could be. It was higher quality food, period.
Around the same time, I was invited to cook at a Share Our Strength Taste of the Nation Fundraiser. I was happy to support SOS’s mission to combat hunger, but frankly, I agreed because it meant I was invited to cook alongside the country’s most elite chefs that night, and I was flattered to be included.
What I learned that evening really made me start to think about hunger in this country. At the same time, issues pertaining to our food supply and our fisheries became more important to me and I educated myself about them too, with the dawning understanding that my success as a chef rested on the viability of the ingredients at my disposal.
Around this time I started to feel uneasy about the great schism between the variety and quality of what I could offer my guests at restaurants, and the food available to millions of other Americans for whom a meal at Craft or Colicchio & Sons was not an option. As a chef, it’s my job to feed people, and given my own humble roots, it didn’t feel right to only feed the luckiest few. That was the impulse behind ‘wichcraft – I wanted to offer great, high quality food at a more democratic price point. But that wasn’t enough to quiet my growing discomfort. A $10 artisanal sandwich wasn’t the answer to unequal food access.
Over the years I continued to cook for any group that was tackling hunger. I saw my role as a fundraiser, plain and simple. When asked, I also lent my voice to groups who were pushing for more sustainable ways of farming the land, and to environmental groups bent on protecting our food and fisheries.
Then, about six years ago, my wife Lori began working on a movie that examined our nation’s hunger crisis. She was determined to ask some hard questions about how the world’s wealthiest nation could have a massive hunger crisis – a crisis virtually unknown in other wealthy, developed nations.
Making A Place at the Table changed my thinking radically, because I learned a remarkable truth: hunger in the U.S. is solvable. We actually can end it, if we resolve to look honestly and critically at the policies that contribute to the issue. Other nations have done that, and they are not faced with the same hunger crisis. We, on the other hand, comfort ourselves with charitable work that barely makes a dent in the problem. I was so used to raising money, I thought the answer was food banking. Food banks do really excellent, needed work, but they’re not getting us any closer to ending hunger.
To put it in perspective: The most successful fundraising gala I’ve ever attended raised $2 million dollars to support the food banks of New York City. Earlier this year, Congress voted to slash $8.8 BILLION dollars from SNAP. To make up for $8.8 billion dollars in cuts to food for hungry people, we would need to replicate the success of that fundraiser every single night. For the next 12 years.
The truth is that the great work of charities is being undermined by really bad policy, and until we face that truth, we’re deluding ourselves. If bad policies — like cruel cuts to food stamps or a minimum wage so low that working people can’t afford food — are creating the problem, then it will take good policies to fix them. And where do policies get written, decided and voted on? Washington, DC.
Marion Nestle once described a meeting she had on Capitol Hill where she used the term “The Food Movement.” The Congressman chuckled and said, “The food movement? What food movement?” As he saw it there was no food movement because Congress wasn’t hearing from them and they weren’t voting people in and out of office on the basis of these values.
Plain and simple, his point was: you might think you’re a movement, but if you’re not getting anyone elected, then your issues don’t matter here. Sorry.
So far, the food movement has been no match for the food industry, especially on Election Day. And, that’s why so many of our food policies benefit industrial agriculture and giant food processors at the expense of struggling families.
Unfortunately, the Americans most affected by policies that lead to hunger haven’t been able to move the needle on influencing our leaders for obvious reasons – when you’re struggling just to get enough food together for your kids each day, you’re unlikely to be able to focus on organizing a political movement.
For years now, food advocates and hunger advocates have been in silos – so focused on making modest gains that many times we are faced with bargaining between good food policy and reducing hunger.
The key to our success is impossible to ignore – we have to get out of our silos and work together as a political movement. When that starts to happen, we won’t be in the kind of situation we were in during this last Farm Bill debate, which split people who care about hunger from people who care about healthy diets and organic farmers. We all share the same food values, but we were too divided to deliver the food system Americans overwhelmingly want.
That’s why I worked with food leaders from across the country to help create Food Policy Action. Finally, we are uniting food leaders from across the country, and are holding legislators accountable. We can see whether or not they share our values. Because that’s what this is about. This is about creating a system that works for everyone. It’s about more than just food: it’s about justice.
Every year, Food Policy Action issues a scorecard that tracks how legislators are voting on the issues we all care about, issues like hunger, nutrition, food access, food and farm workers, food safety, local food and farming, animal welfare, and reforming farm subsidies.
This kind of accountability is crucial to our ability – as a movement – to promote the policies that will change the way we eat and how our food is grown. Right now, we have a Gun Rights Movement that votes expressly on Second Amendment Rights. We have a Pro-Life movement that votes entirely based on Reproductive Rights. It’s time we have a Food Movement that votes on a good fair food system for all.
Now is the time for us to band together with people working on all food issues to make food matter in elections. We can work together to introduce tax incentives that promote the right kind of behavior from industry. We can raise Americans’ awareness of how their leaders are voting on issues that directly impact the quality and availability of their food. We can call out our leaders who show disdain for American eaters by voting for bad food policies and force them to defend those votes in primaries, talk to SNAP recipients, and stare down the 17 million kids who routinely go hungry through no fault of their own. We can start to vote for good food not with our dollars, but with our votes.
As soon as one legislator loses their job over the way they vote on food issues, it will send a clear message to Congress: We are organized. We’re strong. Yes, we have a food movement, and it’s coming for you.
Join me, #VOTEFOOD.
Copyright © Talk Poverty www.talkpoverty.org. Reproduced with permission.
FOOD POLICY ACTION IS FED UP WITH BIG FOOD Laurie David says “We can’t continue to allow the industry to hide behind websites and false claims about the health of their products.” For Immediate Release Friday May 16, 2014 Contact: Claire Benjamin 202-631-6362 firstname.lastname@example.org Washington, D.C. -The film FED UP (Katie Couric, Laurie David, Oscar winning producer…
Washington, D.C. -The film FED UP (Katie Couric, Laurie David, Oscar winning producer of AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH, and director Stephanie Soechtig) opened across the country on May 9 and is expanding to 45 markets today. A Spanish language version of the film is also being theatrically released in select markets starting today.
Fed Up exposes the fact that everything we’ve been told about food and exercise for the past 30 years is dead wrong. FED UP is the film the food industry doesn’t want Americans to see, and this week the Grocery Manufacturers Association set-up a phony website mirroring the film’s URL in attempt to deceive consumers about the facts revealed in the film.
“Today, Food Policy Action (FPA) launched a real FED UP Facts website as a direct counter to the attempt by GMA to continue to misinform consumers. REAL Facts About FED UP directly mirrors the GMA site in look and feel, including a quiz, but with content that directly challenges the claims made by GMA,” said Claire Benjamin, managing director, FPA. “Organizations like GMA and big food have been engaging in a decades-long misinformation campaign to protect their bottom line, aided and abetted by the U.S. Government. REAL Fed Up Facts is working to set the record straight.”
“If we’re going to reverse the dangerous course we’re on, we’ll need to hold the food industry accountable and demand that they get real about the food they are providing. The future of our nation depends on us taking action. I’m thankful that FPA has stepped up to the plate and called GMA to task for their attempt to cover up the truths exposed in our film,” said Laurie David. “Childhood obesity and the growing diabetes rate is a direct result of the food industry’s relentless focus on profits, and how much the government is beholden to corporate interests. This is the biggest health crisis of our time, and we can’t continue to allow the industry to hide behind websites and false claims about the health of their products.”
Some quick facts:
Food Policy Action was established in 2012 through a collaboration of national food policy leaders, including Tom Collichio, Wayne Pacelle and Ken Cook, to hold legislators accountable on votes that have an effect on food and farming.
By Shazi Visram President and CEO, Happy Family It was almost exactly 11 years ago today when I had my ‘aha’ moment about the foods we feed our children. After listening to a friend’s anguish about the difficulty of finding the best possible baby food for her twins, I realized something must be done. My…
By Shazi Visram
President and CEO, Happy Family
It was almost exactly 11 years ago today when I had my ‘aha’ moment about the foods we feed our children. After listening to a friend’s anguish about the difficulty of finding the best possible baby food for her twins, I realized something must be done.
My friend was a working mom committed to feeding her baby nutritious foods made with natural, organic ingredients. However, like many of us, she didn’t always have the time to make her own baby food and wasn’t even sure of where to start. Through her ongoing search, she realized that there was a need for truly healthy and delicious food options for babies in readily available formats.
My friend’s story inspired me to want to make a difference for families and moms just like her. From there, Happy Family was born. At Happy Family, we are devoted to creating a positive influence on the health of children and families everywhere. We give back to those who are in need and we support parents who are trying to make the best food and nutrition decisions for their families.
It is fitting that today – Mother’s Day – is also Happy Family’s birthday. We ‘opened our doors’ eight years ago with the same principles and beliefs that we hold true today. It reminds me how moms will do anything for their children and how much we appreciate a mom’s commitment to her family. This extends beyond just moms, but to all parents, to the young and old, and from every part of our country; we all care about the foods we put into our bodies.
For those of you who are looking to get more involved in the issue of access to healthy foods, I recommend visiting Food Policy Action’s food policy scorecard. I strongly support the organization and what they stand for as they are committed to the idea that food matters. They are working to ensure that our elected officials understand and vote with these shared values. Your voice matters, too.
For the first time, Food Policy Action provides a way to measure how Washington is doing on food policy. Through education, advocacy and the publication of the National Food Policy Scorecard, Food Policy Action holds members of Congress accountable for what they are doing to the food system. One of the most important things that will affect the future of our children is the quality and safety of the food they eat.
As a mom, friend and advocate, I believe it is more important than ever before that we come together on these issues. We need to offer families and moms quality food options, and we need groups like Food Policy Action and Congress to support us.
As we count our blessings, give thanks to our moms today and share a meal together, let’s think about what we can do to ensure that everyone can eat and live healthier. Together, we can make a difference.
Shazi Visram is President and CEO of Happy Family Brands. She lives in Connecticut with her husband and son Zane.