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Food Policy

Until just a few years ago, the term “food policy” was not part of anyone’s lexicon. However, as efforts to reform our current food system gain momentum, recognition of policy as a key tool for change is spreading.

Contrary to the belief of many, food policy is not synonymous with agriculture policy, or only public health policy. It encompasses aspects of many policy focus areas including the aforementioned, as well as labor, economic and environmental policies. It recognizes that we need smart policies that no longer separate food production, consumption, and its impact on individuals, communities and the environment. 

As experts point out, the United States has no intentionally designed national food policy. However, the tide may be turning. Recent calls for a national food policy are being made by prominent thought leaders and food activists such as Michael Pollan, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and Food Policy Action, who are partnering with several other organizations on the Plate of the Union campaign. Plate of the Union is asking presidential candidates – and all candidates in upcoming elections – to articulate plans for a national food policy. 

Thankfully, smart food policy is happening in communities across the country everyday, through food policy councils and action committees, and through the creation of good food charters on the local and state levels. Communities are recognizing that they have the power to determine their own policies about where their food comes from, how its grown, mechanisms for increasing access, and how food production can serve as economic engines for and benefit all people. Furthermore, their efforts are going noticed nationally and inspiring change far and wide. Food policy activism may be nascent, but it is gaining strength.

Dive into the Lexicon of Food as we hear from experts from across the country and across food disciplines as they share key definitions and insight around current and future food policy, and what works and what doesn’t on the local, state, and federal levels. Good food policy is being created in rural and urban areas and in almost every corner of the country. This week’s Food List includes experts and activists working on federal food policy; academics studying the growth of the movement; a pioneer in the concept of food policy councils; a chef who leverages his roles as a restaurateur and a father to change school food policy in his own community, and everyday folks engaged in food policy councils from Mississippi to Michigan.

We hope you feel inspired to action with your new knowledge!

This week's Food List was guest-edited by Jaime Lockwood

This week's terms

National Food Policy

Policy is an overarching set of principles that guide decision making to meet specified ends. Typically, policies in government, businesses and other institutions manifest as the authority to direct resources to serve and achieve organizational priorities. National policies are useful to manage complex webs of laws, authorities and practices. Accordingly, national food policy would guide public investment in such a way that public good is maximized. Additionally, well-articulated policy would serve to prevent inconsistent government actions resulting from compartmentalized purviews over components of the agrifood system. Ideally, national food policy would enable coherent and coordinated management of the agrifood system as a whole. - Ricardo Salvador/Union of Concerned Scientists

Food Policy Council

"Food Policy Councils (FPCs) provide a unique forum for diverse stakeholders to come together and address common concerns regarding food policy including food systems, food security, farm policy, food regulations, health, and nutrition. Stakeholders include people such as farmers, city and state officials, non-profit organizations, chefs, food distributors, food justice advocates, educators, health professionals, and concerned citizens. FPCs bring together these stakeholders to share concerns and then utilize this diverse membership to act on common goals, thus influencing and shaping food policy. FPCs exist in various other cities and states, and have had much success in improving and amending policies to be friendlier to local food systems and improve access to healthy foods." - Mississippi Food Policy Council

Child Nutrition and WIC Act

The Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act authorizes all of the federal school meal and child nutrition programs, which include the School Breakfast, National School Lunch, Child and Adult Care Food, Summer Food Service, and the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Programs and WIC. - Chef Ann Cooper


The Supplemental NUTRITION Assistance Program (formerly called “Food Stamps”) provides financial assistance to low or no-income individuals and families.

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