Now Is the Time to #VoteFood
How to get food policy to the top of our politicians' to-do listsKatherine Miller
July 22, 2019
James Beard Foundation vice president of Impact Katherine Miller looks back at the recent Democratic debates and reflects on our collective responsibility to keep our politicians focused on food policy.
At the James Beard Foundation, we’re listening very closely to what Congress has to say about food. And frankly, they need to hear more from all of us, because food policy isn’t getting a lot of attention.
At the first public debates, featuring 20 Democratic contenders, farmers and agriculture were only briefly mentioned by a couple of candidates, and only in the context of climate change and corporate mergers. This is despite most of the candidates having well-documented records on farm, agriculture, and ocean policies. (You can find a running look at all the 2020 candidates and their positions on food policies on Civil Eats.)
This is also despite strong support by American voters for food and farming issues:
- A majority of registered voters opposed efforts to scale back Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) food benefits and believe the government should be doing more to meet the needs of people facing food insecurity and other challenges, according to a 2018 survey commissioned by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Center for a Livable Future.
- 81 percent of American voters believed that “a strong and thriving American farm industry is critical to American national security” with 92 percent of voters supporting federal spending to help farms and farmers.
But none of these topics will be at the top of the to-do list unless we use our voices to get our elected officials to pay more attention to the issues that impact the millions of food and restaurant workers, farmers, fishermen, and families that grow, produce, harvest, and sell our food.
Here’s how you do more:
Learn about the issues: there are a number of organizations that publish information about how members of Congress vote on key issues. Food Policy Action publishes the Eaters Guide to Congress tracking food-related issues. The North American Marine Alliance focuses on promoting American fishery policies and the National Sustainable Agriculture Committee covers policy issues related to rural communities and food systems. These are just a few of the organizations to look at; Marion Nestle’s blog Food Politics has a very comprehensive list of groups here.
Talk to your member of Congress: every summer the U.S. Congress takes a break, affectionately known as recess, and they spend it in their home states and congressional districts meeting with their neighbors, local community leaders, business owners, and more. If you’ve ever wanted to ask a Congresswoman or Senator why they voted a specific way or whether they will support something you care about (such as new laws to help tackle climate change), this recess period is your perfect opportunity. (If you’re not 100-percent sure who represents you, just put your zip code in here for the House of Representatives and here for the Senate.)
Show your support of food policy issues: use your social media platforms to highlight the food-related issues that you care about. Tag organizations and members of Congress. If you happen to be watching debates or attending town halls, you can also submit questions to the moderators using social media. It may seem like a small thing, but the advisors and staffs are paying attention to these platforms and regularly highlight what is trending for their bosses.
Vote: make sure you’re registered to vote and use your vote in local, state, and federal elections. The 2020 elections may seem far away, but they aren’t. Mark your calendars for September 24, 2019—National Voter Registration Day—and get registered.
The more we talk about the issues that we care about, raise them with our elected officials, and cast our votes for the people who support issues important to us, the more positive changes we’ll be able to make in our food system.
So this summer use a little of your time to #VoteFood and encourage others to do the same.