my journey through the pursuit of love & happiness

food politics: the government’s place in regulating food choice

Posted on: January 14, 2011

Sarah Palin wants you to think that the government doesn’t want you to eat cookies. She’s wrong. She’s wrong about a lot of things. In this case, she is wrong that the government doesn’t already influence our food choices with their agriculture policies.

Marion Nestle says it best:

“When San Francisco voted to eliminate toys from McDonald’s Happy Meals, the Forum at the Harvard School of Public Health invited comments on this issue.  Here’s what I had to say about it:

I’m surprised at the mayor’s comment that “parents, not politicians, should decide what their children eat,” because the San Francisco ordinance is not about the food. It’s about the toys.

Nobody is stopping parents from ordering Happy Meals for their kids. But as everyone knows, kids only want Happy Meals because of the toys.

The idea that government has no role in food choice is ludicrous. The government is intimately involved in food choices through policies that make the cost of some foods—those containing subsidized corn or soybeans, for example—cheaper than others.

It is not an accident that five dollars at McDonald’s will buy you five hamburgers or only one salad. It is not an accident that the indexed price of fruits and vegetables has increased by 40% since the early 1980s, whereas the indexed price of sodas has decreased by 30%. Right now, agricultural policies support our present industrialized food system and strongly discourage innovation and consumption of relatively unprocessed foods.

Agricultural policies are the results of political decisions that can be changed by political will. If we want agricultural policies aligned with health policies—and I certainly do—we need to exercise our democratic rights as citizens and push for changes that are healthier for people and the planet.

Yes, individuals are the ultimate arbiters of food choice.

But our present food system makes unhealthful eating the default. We need to be working for government policies that make healthy eating the default. The San Francisco ordinance is a small step in that direction.”

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1 Response to "food politics: the government’s place in regulating food choice"

……….Just weeks after the USDA announced that one in seven Americans would go hungry at some point in 2009 a new report from Food First and the Community Food Security Coalition highlights a useful tool that city state and local governments can use to fight hunger diet-related diseases and other symptoms of a failing food system. Food Policy Councils Lessons Learned is an assessment based on an extensive literature review and testimony from 48 individual interviews with the people most involved in Food Policy Councils.Local and State Food PoliciesLocal and state governments are the testing ground for innovative policy ideas that often become part of the national norm. Food Policy consists of the actions and in-actions by government that influence the supply quality price production distribution and consumption of food.

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