In this election year, raise your fork and vote food.
Whether you realize it or not, food is politics. With every food choice you make, you are participating in systems run and regulated by local, regional, national, and global systems that play a role in every facet of food production, from water, soil, and air to energy, seeds, and money.
When I am out on the road talking to people about changing their food systems for the better, the most frequently asked question I get is, “What’s one thing I can do to make a difference?” Usually, my answer is, “Do more than one thing.” But maybe the better answer is, “You have already taken the first step.” Because if food is politics, then eating is activism.
If that idea sounds overwhelming or paralyzing, it shouldn’t. Hopefully, it empowers you. Whether or not you consider yourself a political activist, eventually, you have to eat, and the choices you make in selecting the foods you eat are a little bit like votes in support of the food systems represented in every ingredient — which means you have the power to make a difference.
Take Stock of the Kitchen Cabinet
With election season upon us, voting is first and foremost on our minds. But before you step into the voting booth, take control of your food by cooking at home. Opt for nonprocessed foods. Teach your children what fresh food looks and tastes, and show them how to prepare it. Cooking is a skill that will save your life, your health, and your bank account. When you buy food that is locally raised or produced, you’re supporting your local economy, too — a win-win.
Get in the Know
In a world where the amount of information can be overwhelming, there are some great online resources that cover food and food policy on a regular basis in thoughtful, compelling ways. Some of my favorites are Civil Eats, Marion Nestle’s Food Politics blog, Food and Water Watch, Food Tank, and Ecocentric.
Depending on where you live, local representatives may not consider food issues as part of their platform. One way to bring it to their attention is to use your voice. For one writer in Maine, the paradox of using box-top initiatives for school fund-raising while advocating for healthy food in school cafeterias led to a newspaper column that opened the door to thinking differently.
The other thing you can do, of course, is vote.
Food Tank recently posed ten food policy questions to the leading candidates in the presidential race. Their questions are not only a great resource for anyone looking at the state of our nation and politics in food, but they’re also a good starting place for someone who wants to adapt those questions and hold them up to your own city, town, and county politicians to see how they interpret food policy.
Food Policy Action keeps a state-by-state scorecard for how members of Congress in each state have voted on the most important pieces of food legislation. Just type in your zip code or search for your representatives by name to see where they stand.
You can also join active national initiatives and coalitions like Plate of the Nation, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, The Rural Coalition, and the National Family Farm Coalition, which all work to amplify the voices of citizens who are concerned about access to healthy and affordable food that is fair to food workers and protects farmland and natural resources.
Vote Now, Vote Always
Vote in all elections available to you — in local, state, and federal elections — and remember that when election season is over, voting doesn’t end. Get involved and make your voice heard on school boards and planning committees, and with nonprofits, including hospitals, that have a commitment to helping bring good food to all, not just to some.