by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Advocacy

Jul 5 2011

Resources for advocacy: school food and ag policy

My San Francisco Chronicle column on food advocacy includes a severely edited list of organizations working on food issues, particularly school food and the farm bill.   I thought the entire list might be useful.

Note that information about how to contact government officials appears at the end.

I consider this list preliminary.  Please use the Comments to add to it.  And pass it along, use, and enjoy!

Organization Advocacy resources
Edible Communities ~60 Edible magazines throughout U.S.  Useful for identifying local food resources
Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) Advocacy and lobbying for a broad range of food and nutrition issues, school food among them.
Slow Food USA Promotes policies favoring slow, as opposed to fast, food
Strategic Alliance for Healthy Food and Activity Environments Promotes policies to improve corporate and government practices that affect food and activity environments in California
Community Food Security Coalition More than 300 organizations working to build sustainable, self-reliant, local and regional food systems, and promote a healthier farm bill.
School Food
Background legislation 



The Healthy, Hunger-free Kids Act of 2010 

Proposed nutrition standards for school meals

USDA programs Team Nutrition: supports child nutrition programs through training 

Chefs Move to Schools: partners chefs with schools

Public Health Advocacy Institute Promotes use of the legal system to improve school food
National Alliance for Nutrition and Activity (NANA) Lobbies for federal policies and programs to improve school food and activity environments (a project of CSPI)
Public Health Law & Policy  


Offers a policy package with goals and actions for school wellness policies, and a fact sheet on the schools section of its website
National Farm to School Network Promotes connecting farm produce to schools
California ProjectLEAN (Leaders Encouraging Activity and Nutrition) Helps develop school wellness policies and healthier food and activity environments (a joint project of the California Department of Public Health and the Public Health Institute)
CANFIT (Communities, Adolescents, Nutrition, Fitness) Community-based initiatives to improve diet and fitness among low-income, minority adolescents
Center For Ecoliteracy Rethinking School Lunch Guide shows how to incorporate ecological understanding into school meals
School Food Focus Focus: Food Options for Children in Urban Areas
One Tray More direct connection between local farms and school meal programs
Better School Food Community-based connection of school food to health
Cook For America Culinary training to support healthy school lunches cooked from scratch
The Lunch Box Online toolkit with information about healthy lunch options
Let’s Move Salad Bars to School Supports salad bars in schools
Project Lunch Improves Marin County school lunch program
Nourish Life Food and sustainability in schools and communities
PEACHSF How-to guides and resources
Farm Bill
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy Public policies for food and farming 


Food and Water Watch Bring agricultural policy in line with health and environmental policy
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition Promotes healthier and more sustainable systems for small- and medium-size farms, farming opportunities, fair competition
Organic Trade Association (OTA) Supports organic food production, large and small
Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) Protect and expand food assistance programs 


Environmental Working Group Exposes inequities in food subsidies; provides data on who gets what
PolicyLink Working to get Healthy Food Financing Initiative into the Farm Bill


How to contact federal and state government officials

The White House:

Members of Congress

State officials:

Local media:


Jul 3 2011

Food Matters: How to shape policy: Advocate! Vote!

My monthly (first Sunday) Food Matters column in the San Francisco Chronicle is about how you as an individual can influence food policy:

Q: I know you say “vote with your fork,” and I do, as often as possible, but it seems so small a gesture. In what other ways can we, as consumers, speak out or act to change our food system?

A: Vote with your fork and vote with your vote. Today’s food movement gives you plenty of opportunity to do both.

Voting with your fork means buying and eating according to what you believe is right, at least to the extent you can.

When you vote this way, you support farmers, processors, retailers and restaurant chefs who are working to create a food system that is healthier all around – for the public, farmworkers, farm animals and the planet.

You set an example. You help make it socially acceptable to care about food issues. You make it easier for others to shop at farmers’ markets, join CSAs, grow food at home, stop buying junk food and teach kids to cook.

Part of taking personal responsibility for food choices also means taking social responsibility. When you act, you make it easier for everyone else to do what you do. And yes, one person makes a difference.

My favorite current example is the work of an NYU graduate student, Daniel Bowman Simon, who researches – and advocates for – public policies to promote growing vegetables.

By chance, a food stamp (SNAP) recipient told him that she used the funds to buy plants and seeds to grow her own food. Could this be possible?

Simon found the 1973 food stamp legislation and read the fine print. There it was. He joined others and formed a group to publicize this benefit (see

Today, SNAP recipients throughout the country are encouraged to grow food – not bad for what one person can do.

I particularly like school food as a starter issue for advocacy. Improving school food is nothing less than grassroots democracy in action.

Schools matter because kids are in them all day long and they set a lifetime example. If you have children in school, take a look at what they are eating. Could the food use an upgrade? Start organizing.

All schools are supposed to have wellness policies. Find out what they are and talk to the principal, teachers and parents about how to improve access to healthier food and more physical activity.

Another well-kept secret: The U.S. Department of Agriculture offers technical assistance to help schools meet nutritional standards. The USDA encourages advocacy. It says its work is easier when parents push the schools to do better.

Many groups are devoted to school food issues. Some have published guides to getting started or developing strong wellness policies. They range in focus from hands-on local to national policy.

Other groups are gearing up to advocate for changes in one or another provision of the Farm Bill, now up for renewal in 2012. This legislation governs everything having to do with agricultural policy in the United States – farm subsidies, food assistance programs, conservation, water rights and organic production, among others.

In this era of budget cutting, every stakeholder in this legislation – and this also means everyone interested in creating a healthier food system – will be lobbying fiercely to defend existing benefits and to obtain a larger share of what’s available. Let legislators hear your voice.

And now is an excellent time to identify candidates for office who share your views and are willing to fight hard for them.

The ability for individuals, acting singly and together, to exercise democratic rights as citizens holds much hope for achieving a more equitable balance of power in matters pertaining to food and health.

Join the food movement. Use the system to work for what you think is right. Act alone or join others. You will make a difference.


The following are among the many groups advocating for healthier school food or farm policies [I submitted a much longer list but it got edited out.  I will post the rest of it in the next day or two].

Center for Science in the Public Interest

Community Food Security Coalition

Environmental Working Group

Food and Water Watch

Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy

National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition

E-mail Marion Nestle at

E-mail questions to, with “Marion Nestle” in the subject line.

This article appeared on page H – 3 of the San Francisco Chronicle


Aug 5 2007

The Yearly Kos Convention

I’m just back from participating in a panel discussion on alternative food chains at Yearly Kos in Chicago–the first time this group of Netroots Nation and blogging activists (many on Daily Kos) has discussed food issues at its convention (see the completely unbiased report on the panel, posted by its chair, Daily Kos diarist orangeclouds115). The convention was well worth attending if for no other reason than to see all of the Democratic party candidates for president (exception: Joe Biden) on stage answering hard-hitting questions from a very tough audience with highly diverse opinions. If you still have the idea that young people are not interested in politics these days, try this. I found it inspiring (not everyone agrees).