There are times when the food universe distances itself – when things like the Food and Farm Bill seem alien, and hope for food justice sort of kerplunks way out of sight.
And then, awesome people show you otherwise.
This past Saturday I had the chance to attend the Just Food Conference with Slow Food Rutgers co-pilot, Carolyn. Essentially, it was a wonderland for all of us energized by the food movement. We’re talking a whole day spent among farmers, entrepreneurs, students, activists, leaders, educators…everyone eager to work towards a healthy and sustainable food system.
There were so many different workshops and speakers, the biggest difficulty was choosing just one during each time slot.
Digging into the Food and Farm Bill
The Farm Bill is such a hot topic in the food and ag world, but policy is a twisted arena. In this talk, speakers Qiana Mickie and Benjamin Solotaire schooled us well.
- First of all…fruits and vegetables are referred to us “specialty crops” in the bill. WHAT?!
- $4.3 billion were spent on these specialty crops; fruits, nuts and veg.
- $33.1 billion spent on commodity crops – corn, soybean, cotton, rice and wheat.
- They tell us to fill half our plates with fruits and veggies, but don’t fund the right food groups.
- If 10% of subsidies were shifted to fruits and veg, we could double the amount served in school food programs.
- Nutrition is a huge part of the Farm Bill. HUGE. 46 million Americans get food stamps, and the need is growing. There are two ways of paying for food assistance: block grants, which offer set funding; not good. Or, entitlement based funding which is based on the need – this is what we need.
- The only way to improve policy is to keep the conversation going. Communicate with government officials, make some noise, educate yourself about what’s going on, and be part of the picture!
The Weight of the Share: Measuring the Impact of CSA on Eating Behavior
Researcher Jesse Cohen of Mt. Sinai discussed how to measure if Community Supported Agriculture programs really make a difference. It’s easy to assume that if people get shares of farm fresh produce each week, that they will obviously improve their health and eating habits. It’s probably true, but you know how people are: they need numbers, data and stats. In order to get funding, someone has to do the dirty work of proving that CSA’s are not only awesome, but effective.
How to Develop Successful Food Education Programs
A panel of successful leaders of cooking and nutrition education programs talked about the ins and outs of their efforts.
The Children’s Aid Society
Wellness in the School
Harlem Children’s Zone
The Sylvia Center
- Kids and healthy eating conjures scenes of stubborn picky vegetable haters. But the truth is, kids are willing to try new things if they are presented the right way. If you let them be the chef, and make a big deal out of it, everything changes. Suddenly, they have the power to make a meal which inadvertently makes them excited to try their creation.
Preserving the Harvest: The Basics of Canning
Led by an enthusiastic food trainer, we learned how to preserve the season’s harvest all year long. Blueberry cognac jam? Yes, please.
To conclude the conference, a Farmer Panel was held, which connected everything full circle. Farming, food, nutrition, education…they all connect so perfectly, and this conference made me realize how exciting all of these sectors are.
Did I mention the lunch?
A big thanks to the folks at Just Food for organizing such a thoroughly educational, inspiring and delicious event. It was a day well spent immersed in the topics of food which carry so much importance today. The food movement is upon us, and we are all key players.