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JBF Impact News: What the Federal Budget Draft Means for Good Food

Katherine Miller

March 22, 2017


In her latest dispatch, JBF’s senior director of food policy advocacy Katherine Miller delves into the potential effects of the proposed federal budget on the fight for good food, and shares how to stay engaged with local and regional initiatives from our network of chefs and advocates.

As we divide our attention among multiple policy issues that impact our lives and our food system (immigration, civil rights, and more), let’s turn our focus to the first draft of the next federal budget that was released last week. Among other areas of concern, the draft includes cuts to programs that ensure access to safe, healthy food, especially for vulnerable populations such as mothers and infants and low-income individuals and families. 

The proposed budget includes cuts totaling $4.7 billion. According to the Washington Post, this “includes food safety, rural development and conservation funding, research grants and international food aid. The cuts will not affect mandatory spending programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program—SNAP, also known as ‘food stamps’—and crop subsidies for farmers.”

Over the next six to nine months, this document will be dissected, analyzed, and debated. Advocates will organize petitions and protests, which are all necessary tactics in defending important programs. But we also need more champions in this fight. We need an army of good food advocates who can break through the din of political debate and engage members of Congress, their staffs, and, maybe more importantly, our fellow citizens in a conversation.

If this recent article from the New York Times is any indication, now is the time for chefs to step forward and let their voices be heard. We’ve already seen the great efforts that our Chefs Boot Camp for Policy and Change alumni, together with the thousands of chefs, farmers, fishermen, and producers around the country, have made to improve the lives of families that live in their neighborhoods, their states, and across America.

It is truly inspiring to see these chefs at work raising awareness of the issues and causes they care about, and supporting other leading organizations fighting to protect and expand a good food system.

Just a few examples include:

  • Chef Matthew McClure recently traveled to Washington, D.C. to learn more about child nutrition and school meal programs. He then spent time with members of Congress sharing stories from his home state of Arkansas where more than 2 million meals are served during the summer months to children in need.
  • Chef Duskie Estes is working with a coalition of ranchers and farmers to open up markets for humane animal production in Marin Country. Duskie hosted meetings on her farm, created an informal listserve, and met with local supervisors and her congressional delegation to help people better understand the benefits of supporting local farmers. This work resulted in policy change that will, according to local Marin media, help the local economy grow, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and support efforts to expand more humane meat production.
  • Chef Michael Cimarusti is a nationally recognized chef-expert on sustainable seafood, a U.S.A. member of Seafood Watch's Blue Ribbon Task Force, and a proponent of strengthening laws and policies related to seafood traceability. As we wait to see what legislation will be proposed to prevent seafood fraud, he is also working with Dock to Dish on a technology solution that will let chefs and diners know exactly where their fish and seafood came from before it hit the plate.

These are just a few examples of the amazing chef advocates who are trained, active, and out in their neighborhoods (and on Capitol Hill) promoting creative solutions to the seemingly intractable problems that plague our food system.

As we track the trajectory of this latest federal budget plan, we will be working with chefs from our Boot Camp program (and our membership) to share the stories of common sense and common ground solutions to protect, grow, and strengthen initiatives.

Please join us in his work. If you are a chef, sign up for our Impact programs. If you're interested in food policy, follow us at @JBFChefAction. We will offer more information and resources about the budget over the coming weeks, but in the meantime, please check out Food Policy Action for petitions and updates on how members of Congress vote on food policy. For nonpartisan examinations of the budget and its consequences, try the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.


Learn more about the JBF Impact Programs.

Katherine Miller is JBF’s senior director of food policy advocacy. Find her on Twitter.