Today, four of America’s preeminent voices in food policy published A National Food Policy for the 21st Century. In their memo to the next president, Mark Bittman, Michael Pollan, Ricardo Salvador, and Olivier De Schutter laid out a comprehensive framework for untangling the myriad laws, regulations, and social mores that make up America’s troubled food system.
Laying the foundation for a National Food Policy is predicated not only on a president who understands the significance of food on multiple facets of daily life, but also on leaders at all levels of government – local, state, and federal – who will support this goal.
We the people must elect these leaders. In 2016, Americans need candidates who are committed to improving America’s health, starting with our most basic necessity, food. Please share this letter widely, follow us on twitter @VoteFood2016, and stay tuned for more on this project.
We urge you to pledge to improve America’s health by making food policy a central part of your campaign platform.
Food touches the life of every American every day.
Food is a household issue, accounting for 13 percent of personal household expenditures, behind only housing and transportation costs.[i]
The food sector is a major economic driver, contributing about $800 billion dollars annually to the economy.[ii]
Food is a labor issue, providing 17 million jobs in agriculture, food services, and manufacturing.[iii]
But food is increasingly also a public health issue.
Obesity costs Americans more than $300 billion dollars each year in medical and treatment costs and in decreased productivity.[iv]
Despite the abundance of food, one in seven Americans goes to bed hungry each night, including 12 million children.[v]
The widespread use of antibiotics in livestock intended for human consumption is leading to alarming rates of antibiotic resistance.[vi]
Today, we find ourselves at a critical juncture in the policies that affect our country’s food supply. Now, more than ever, Americans are paying close attention to what they eat, where it comes from, and how it affects their health. The number of consumers who favor organically grown and locally sourced products is increasing. Intolerance for the abundance of sugar, salt and, unhealthy fats in school lunches is spurring the creation of innovative menus. Responding to consumers’ demands for ethically raised and healthier meat products, multinational corporations are moving away from food raised with antibiotics and towards more humanely and sustainably sourced food. And, from overpriced produce to food deserts, Americans are beginning to understand the profound inequality our food system breeds and its systemic impact on the health of low-income communities. By recognizing food as a health issue, significant improvements in public health can be made. As a candidate for public office, we call on you to improve America’s health by joining the growing movement for better food and pledging to make U.S. food policy part of your campaign platform.
Americans need leaders in government who support the safety and integrity of our food supply, who will ensure that everyone is able to eat nutritious food, and who understand that America’s unsustainable food consumption and production habits are harming this nation’s health.
Food is at the center of American lives, and should be at the center of its policies. Thank you for your support. Vote Food 2016
The views reflected in this expert column are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily represent those of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law or Georgetown University. This blog is solely informational in nature, and not intended as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed and retained attorney in your state or country.