“Eaters must become more political. We can’t just vote with our forks.” These words of wisdom were written by Wenonah Hauter, a blogger for Grist, an environmental blog that calls itself “A beacon in the smog.” Bringing food policy to the front of politics, however, is extremely difficult and rare.
The Food Justice movement is often labeled as elitist; those who want and demand “good food” can afford “good food.” Maybe sitting back and continuing to “vote with our forks” can appear elitist, but the goals of the movement and the demands for national food policy reform embody goals of equity and justice through our human right to food. National food policy reform is in the best interest of all. In my opinion, so many of our societal problems today can be traced to our food policy. Environmental pollution and carbon dioxide emissions largely come from factory farms, terrible conditions for workers are commonplace in the food industry, and epidemics like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease can all be largely traced back to the food policies of this nation and what the government chooses to prioritize. With so many issues with our food system causing inequity in every part of the system, why has food not been a topic of political debate more often?
The only mention of food policy in the 2012 election that I heard was California’s Prop 37, which largely failed due to corporate money, but did not even scrape the surface of the complexity of food issues in this country even if it had passed. However, attention to food policy issues needs to be brought about on a national political level to bring about true reform in our food system. Before the election in 2008, Michael Pollan, a famous Food Justice advocate, wrote a letter to the president-elect explaining the pressing need for food policy reform in the United States.
With the amount of corporate power in our food system, I am skeptical of the amount of change that can be brought without greater political reform. I think that these large corporations are a large reason changes to our food policy have not been seriously discussed. From things like the Farm Bill, to food deserts, to lobbying power of corporations in the FDA and USDA, however, there are many opportunities for political changes in our food supply to generate social changes of greater equity. I hope that the political climate surrounding food changes in the near future and reforms can be made to create a food system that is better for the environment and better for the global population.
– Paige Dow