The White House issued a National Strategy To improve overall health outcomes and get healthy food this week.
This is happening at a critical moment for the American food system, with inflation at record levels, farmers’ share of the consumer dollar falling, and the country facing a public health crisis — all while food and agricultural companies are reaping record profits.
According to a press release from Farm Action, the integration into our food and agricultural system has enabled companies to deceive consumers, farmers and food system workers by manipulating prices under the guise of “supply chain disruptions” or rising operating costs.
The national strategy aims to implement political solutions to this crisis, and it includes many actions recommended by agricultural work Report to the White House and in it The Fair Farm Act Policy Handbook.
Increasing access to fruits and vegetables is a critical step in reducing diet-related diseases, and ‘food is medicine’ interventions are the big winners. The national strategy includes plans—through legislation, federal interstate cooperation, and public-private partnerships—to provide medically tailored meals and produce prescriptions for Medicare recipients, Medicare, and other vulnerable populations. The strategy also encourages a greater focus on nutritional education among medical professionals.
The strategy emphasizes the importance of connecting people to nutritious foods, and seeks to achieve this by strengthening local and regional diets. Measures in this regard include: promoting urban agriculture projects; establishment of regional food business centres; Use USDA procurement to purchase from small farmers, businesses, schools, and federal prisons; and making investments to support local and regional food and agricultural businesses through grants and other financial assistance.
Food sovereignty efforts, particularly among tribal communities, are gaining momentum, and this strategy is supported by the expansion of the FDPIR Self-Determination Program.
This strategy addresses the hazardous conditions faced by workers in the food system by generally recommending greater worker protection and collective bargaining capabilities.
The White House is acknowledging the role the consolidation of our food system has played in contributing to the hunger and health epidemic by directing the Federal Trade Commission to “rigorously enforce antitrust laws” in an entire government effort to expand access to food for disadvantaged communities, according to the release.
Farm Action hopes for the future of bipartisanship on these matters because there is much more to be accomplished beyond what is included in the document.
The Farm Bill 2023 is an ideal opportunity to achieve goals from Farm Action’s recommendations, including the following, which the strategy did not address:
- Align farm support with dietary guidelines. Farm subsidies are a big driver of what is available and how much it costs: corn and soybeans are heavily subsidized, so we have abundant animal feed, cheap sugars and fats. If only 2 percent of our farm support goes to fruits and vegetables, why are we surprised that 9 out of 10 Americans don’t eat enough vegetables and many can’t afford or get them? We need to prioritize Americans’ health over corporate profits and shift our farm support to reflect our government’s nutritional recommendations.
- While Farm Action appreciates the strategy’s overall recommendation on increasing worker protections, the organization urges action on agrochemical damage and hazardous line speeds, two ways the merger created hazardous working conditions.
- Farm Action calls for more research on how production methods affect the nutritional content of foods.
- Farm Action has been involved in the months-long process of reporting to the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health.
In addition to Official Policy RecommendationsThe organization attended and co-hosted many events to guide the national strategy.
“Farm Action will continue to work with Congress and the White House to realign our food and farm policies so that renewable, farm-raised fruits, vegetables, legumes, healthy grains, and animal proteins are accessible and affordable for all,” the statement read.
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