The latest dispatch from JBF’s senior director of food policy advocacy Katherine Miller looks back on the challenges and triumphs of the past year, and what new developments may be on the menu for 2017.
Big Progress for Good Food
As we move into the final weeks of 2016, despite the year’s rough spots, there is a lot to look back on and celebrate. For example, in the culinary community, this was a year where many of the food and beverage consumer trends were also visible in policy efforts. It was also a year where chefs made their voices heard in policy discussions.
Here’s a look at some of the biggest developments we saw this year:
In December 2015, Global Food Trends offered up a host of predictions, including increased consumer demand for uncommon seafood, greater transparency in how food is produced, and a stronger focus on reducing food waste. Each of these issues was the focus of chef-led advocacy efforts around the country, including:
- Chefs continued to participate in campaigns such as Eat These Fish, Seafood Watch, and Smart Catch, and work with sustainable suppliers such as Sea to Table and Dock to Dish to promote uncommon and sustainable seafood options on the plate. The government matched this table advocacy with new policies — to help Americans know that the fish they're eating is what they paid for — to fight against seafood fraud and illegal fishing.
- Chefs called for transparency, not only in the seafood industry but also throughout the food chain. This spring, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration redesigned the Nutrition Facts label, taking a major step towards presenting consumers with more information about the foods they eat and feed their families. Chefs from around the country helped raise awareness about the need for this, as well as the need for specific labeling for non-GMO products.
- Whether it was in Rio, Atlanta, or Pittsburgh, food waste was on the minds, plates, and agendas of chefs such as Massimo Bottura, Steven Satterfield, and Jamilka Borges. These chefs, along with thousands of others in the industry, are tackling the problem of food waste with creative solutions. Chefs joined Representative Chellie Pingree to introduce legislation in Congress, worked with local food rescue and feeding organizations to get food to people who need it, and staged major events around the country and the world to raise awareness about the fact that we waste more than 40 percent of the food we produce.
As we look ahead to 2017, it is important to appreciate the progress we’ve made this year, and to study the lessons we’ve learned—clear messages work, job creation, and economic growth are important, and there is strength in numbers—and apply those concepts to the challenges ahead.
The New Year will bring policy fights around the Child Nutrition Reauthorization; see coalitions form to build the new Farm Bill; and may include new efforts on the city and state level to expand soda taxes, increase state (and federal) minimum wages, and reform immigration.
Together, our chef community can help continue to set the table with farmers, food companies, policymakers, advocates, and others to work together to build a better food system. It is a role, according to the latest data from the Pew Charitable Trusts, that the majority of Americans want food industry leaders to take.
In Case You Missed It
The holidays are the busiest time of year for the restaurant industry. When you have a few minutes, after the office party rush is over, take some time to read a few things we’ve found particularly interesting over the last few months:
- Here’s a quick look at policy developments in 2016 from Modern Farmer. Here’s Marion Nestle’s take on 2016, too.
- From Quartz: barring massive changes in how we fish, we’ll soon be saying goodbye to sushi!
- JBF Award winner Michel Nischan on the rise of food policy advocacy.
- Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack says, “SNAP provides a critical nutrition safety net for millions of low-income Americans.” Read a full report on the program here.
- And finally, two innovations that chefs might be interested in: green peanut oil and brandless grocery stores.
Learn more about the JBF Impact Programs.
Katherine Miller is JBF’s senior director of food policy advocacy. Find her on Twitter.