Policy Opportunities

The EAT4Health Initiative is not accepting application at this time. To be placed on our mailing list for future funding opportunities, please send an email to info@EAT4Healthpartners.org

 

EAT4Health partners will learn about and seek to influence federal food policy that impacts their communities and local goals.  Below are some examples of federal policy vehicles on which partners might focus their advocacy.  (This is only a partial listing.)

Food Access - Transportation

Transportation systems are critical for the functioning of the food system.  They enable consumers to access food and farmers to access markets.   Current federal transportation policy,  SAFETEA-LU (which stands for Safe Accountable Flexible Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users)was approved in August 2005 and planned for reauthorization in 2009. However, Congress has not yet approved a new Federal Transportation Law. Until a new law is approved, SAFETEA-LU remains in force at current spending levels due to a series of extensions approved by Congress. Some organizations, such as the Community Food Security Coalition (CFSC), have advocated for addressing issues of food access in the transportation bill through pilot programs and grants. Food advocates from communities classified as food deserts or facing transportation-related food access challenges could be pivotal for incorporating food-related programs into the transportation bill.

GMO Labeling - Food and Drug Administration

In 1992 the FDA issued a policy statement that genetically modified foods were not "materially" different from traditional products and therefore did not require special labeling.  Ever since then, shoppers have consumed GMOs, mostly unknowingly.  Genetically modified foods (GMOs) are altered using DNA molecules from different sources - and sometimes, different species - to create new genes with special traits. Many countries around the world, including Russia, Japan, the entire European Union and China, require the labeling of foods containing GMOs. The Obama administration has supported approval of genetically modified crops, including Monsanto's Roundup Ready GMO alfalfa, Roundup Ready GMO sugar beets and Syngenta's GMO ethanol corn. The FDA was considered likely to approve the commercialization of genetically modified salmon, but the House of Representatives voted to block  approval. GMO salmon contains DNA from the anti-freeze genes of an eelpout and grows at twice the normal rate. The debate about GMO labeling could be energized by the participation of low-income people and people of color, who have by and large been silent consumers, albeit unwittingly, of GMO foods.

Food Advertising - Federal Trade Commission, Federal Communications Commission

At the request of Congress, the Federal Trade Commission, in partnership with the Food and Drug Administration, the Department of Agriculture and the Center for Disease Control, has proposed voluntary guidelines for food manufacturers who advertise to children and teenagers on television or via the Internet.  The guidelines call for foods that are advertised to children to include healthful ingredients (like whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, or low-fat milk) and not contain unhealthful amounts of sugar, saturated fat, trans fat and salt. The federal agencies acknowledged that a “large percentage of food products currently in the marketplace would not meet the principles.”  Existing voluntary industry advertising guidelines address issues like indicating that certain foods are snack foods and not meal replacements, that they should be consumed as “part of a balanced diet,” and the use of licensed characters.  Some characterize these guidelines as too lenient. While industry representatives are weighing-in on the proposed FTC guidelines, and health industry representatives are giving their views, the voices of children and families impacted by food advertising has not been loud in this debate. 

Overall Agricultural and Food Policy - The Farm Bill

The Farm Bill is a multi-billion dollar package of legislation which is passed by Congress every five to seven years and which establishes programs of the United States Department of Agriculture, one of the largest federal agencies, second in size only to the Department of Defense. The Farm Bill influences the safety, production, marketing, access to, and environmental impact of food.  The previous Farm Bill, the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008, directed spending of over $283 billion dollars.

The Farm Bill should be called the “Food Bill” because it directly affects consumers, not just producers. For example, the upcoming 2012/2013 Farm Bill will modify rules and funding levels on approximately $38 billion annually for nutrition assistance for over 40 million low-income people.  Nutrition assistance is provided in the form of Supplement Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, WIC and emergency feeding programs. The Farm Bill addresses other areas besides nutrition, such as the production of   commodity crops, conservation programs, livestock, energy, organic agriculture and trade.

How Farm Bill funds are allocated across different titles influences what is grown, costs of production and ultimately food prices and availability. After the Nutrition Title, the largest Farm Bill expenditure is for the Commodity Title, which provides over billions per year in income support to farmers who produce wheat, feed grains, cotton, rice, oilseed, peanuts, sugar and dairy.  By contrast, less than $400 million per year is spent on vegetables and fruits (called “specialty crops”).  Many argue that this subsidy structure helps to explain why sugary and fatty processed foods are often more affordable than fruits and vegetables.  Advocacy around the Farm Bill goes beyond influencing the content of the legislation to include how the law, once passed, gets implemented “on-the-ground.” Post-Farm Bill advocacy efforts attempt to shape the rule-making process, which addresses issues such as eligibility criteria for program participation, and seek adequate program funding levels.

To learn more about the 2008 Farm Bill, what’s wrong with it and some descriptions of the good work the Farm Bill has supported, try the following sites: