I’m doing a prerecorded online presentation to the V Congresso Nacional de Alimentos e Nutrição, Universidade Federal de Ouro Preto, at 8:00 p.m. on my book Unsavory Truth (Um Verdade Indigesta). Information about the conference is here. It runs from October 4 to 8.
Currently browsing posts about: Food-policy
The Second International Conference on Nutrition took place in Rome a week ago. It brought together a wide range of people from government, nongovernmental organizations, international agencies, and donors to consider how world leaders could join forces to end malnutrition in all its forms.
The First such conference took place 22 years ago. I wrote a disheartening account of it at the time. In reading it over (it is only two pages), I am struck by how little has changed.
The conference produced two documents of note:
- The Rome Declaration on Nutrition of global intent to reduce malnutrition
- A Framework for Action, giving a long list of steps needed to make progress.
Corinna Hawkes, now at the World Cancer Research Fund, reported on the meeting.
The documents were adopted in a matter of minutes at the commencement of the conference. And then they somehow disappeared…So, my conclusion on ICN2? It’s only going to make a real difference if it is seen as the initiation of a process rather than its conclusion—the start, not the end. And if this helps prevent malnutrition—in all its forms—then we can safely say it will indeed have made a difference.
ICN2 elicited a collection of documents, among them:
- WHO Global Nutrition Targets 2025
- WHO non-communicable disease targets.
- IFPRI’s Global Nutrition Report: “Under existing assumptions, projections from the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF show that the world is not on track to meet any of the six WHA nutrition targets. Globally, little progress is being made in decreasing rates for anemia, low birth weight, wasting in children under age five, and verweight in children under age five. Progress in increasing exclusive breastfeeding rates has been similarly lackluster.”
- Public Interest Civil Society Organizations: Statement: “22 years after ICN1, this conference is taking place without properly evaluating progress or failures and without significant participation of civil society, in particular those most affected by hunger and malnutrition in all its forms. We deplore that ICN1 has sunk without trace and we do not want this to happen for ICN2…The conclusion of the ICN2 negotiations is a welcome step, in particular its focus on malnutrition in all its forms. However, we consider it inadequate to confront the scale of the global malnutrition challenge.”
This last statement concludes with a call to action:
22 years – an entire generation – have passed since the first ICN. It is unacceptable that millions of people continue suffer from and die of preventable causes of malnutrition in all its forms. This violence must stop immediately.
We call upon Member States to make clear and firm commitments at both national and international levels to ensure the full realization of the human right to adequate food and nutrition and related rights. We will not watch idly as another 22 years pass by.
We stand ready to play our part and take up our responsibilities. We demand that Member States and the UN system live up to their obligations.
We hereby declare a worldwide People’s Decade of Action on Nutrition.
The time for action is now!
I’m for that. May it succeed.
2014 Global Nutrition Report: Actions and Accountability to Accelerate the World’s Progress on Nutrition
From the point of view of the authors, the report itself is an intervention against malnutrition: it is designed to help reframe malnutrition as a global challenge, to raise ambitions about how quickly it can be reduced, and to reenergize actions to reduce it.
Almost all countries suffer from high levels of malnutrition. Countries should make a common cause and exploit opportunities to learn from each other. It is clear that the low-income countries do not have a monopoly on malnutrition problems and that the high-income countries do not have a monopoly on nutrition solutions. Failure to intensify action and find solutions will cast a long shadow, bequeathing a painful legacy to the next generation. Our generation has the opportunity—and the ability—to banish those shadows. To do so, we must act strategically, effectively, in alliances, and at scale. And we need to be held to account.
Dan Glickman, former USDA Secretary (1995-2001) has been turning up in my mailbox newsletters a lot lately. Here’s a small collection.
On making the connection between agriculture and health
The food, agriculture, health, hunger and nutrition sectors need to create new ways of working together that harness their shared commitment to improving health through food and nutrition. And we need government and industry to work together in a way that transcends typical political and business interests….The food industry can do more to reinforce healthy diets through marketing, incentives and other strategies, including product formulation, placement, packaging, and portion sizes. And government needs to amplify its existing efforts to ensure consistent and affirming nutrition and health messages for consumers.
On the need for bipartisan approaches
While a healthy, civil debate among those with differing viewpoints is an essential component of our democracy, the current partisan tone in government is impeding progress. Through the Democracy Project and events like Bridge-Builder Breakfasts, political summits and timely policy discussions, BPC [Bipartisan Policy Center ] is fostering an ongoing conversation about how to overcome political divides and help make our government work better.
He is a co-chair of AGree–Transforming Food and Agriculture
AGree seeks to drive positive change in the food and agriculture system by connecting and challenging leaders from diverse communities to catalyze action and elevate food and agriculture as a national priority. [Here is what AGree agrees on]
And here he is on the implications of the midterm elections’ for the “rural-urban divide:”
Notwithstanding the very strong farm and agricultural economy the past few years, the Democratic Party and its leadership are having a great deal of trouble connecting with farmers and rural citizens and small-town America…a sustained effort at the highest political level by Democrats to connect with rural issues and concerns is necessary if they want to broaden their popularity and build bigger and more successful electoral coalitions and succeed in this country’s many rural congressional districts.
…It is no secret that casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan were borne by a disproportionate number of young men and women from these areas. The economic recession has also hit rural America very hard and many towns have not seen much impact on their lives from the rebounding American economy.
The White House and Democratic Party gurus need to recognize that they are failing to connect with rural America….The future of American leadership on nutrition, farming and hunger is in jeopardy without positive action to rebuild and maintain these bipartisan coalitions.
In his post USDA years, Glickman has become a strong spokesman for bipartisanship and bipartisan decisions about how to link agricultural policy to health policy.
Wouldn’t it be nice if he succeeds?
Washington is such a mess that you can’t tell the players without a scorecard, and this one is really useful.
Food Policy Action to the rescue.
Food Policy Action is a project of the Environmental Working Group. Ken Cook of EWG is its chair. Tom Colicchio is listed as the first board member.
The 2013 National Food Policy Scorecard ranks each member of the Senate and House on their votes on food issues.
The interactive map lets you click on a state and see how our congressional representatives are voting. According to the scorecard, 87 members are Good Food Champions. We need more!
I looked up New York. Senator Charles Schumer gets a perfect 100%. Yes!
But Senator Kirsten Gillibrand only gets 67%.
How come? Click on her name and the site lists her votes on key legislation. Oops. She voted against GMO labeling and against a key farm bill amendment on crop insurance. If you click on the button, you get to learn more about this vote and the legislation.
This kind of information is hard to come by. Food Policy Action’s scorecard is easy to use and performs a terrific public service.
Thanks to everyone responsible for it.
For those of us who teach food policy and politics, a new textbook is most welcome, especially when it comes from Parke Wilde. Wilde is now a professor at Tufts and a food policy blogger, but I first met him years ago when he was a reporter for the Community Nutrition Institute’s Nutrition Week.
His first book has just been released.
Parke Wilde. Food Policy in the United States: An Introduction. Earthscan, 2013.
I blurbed it:
Food Policy in the United States is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand how our food system really works or to take action to change it. Professor Wilde provides a tough but balanced and decidedly nonpartisan overview of the facts behind the full range of policy areas—among them agricultural support, safety, dietary guidance–that affect food production and consumption. If you want to join the food movement to improve the system, here’s how to find out where to start.
The online, open-access journal Public Library of Science – Medicine, better known as PLoS Medicine, is doing a series of articles on Big Food. I’m its co-editor, with David Stuckler in the U.K.
Here’s what’s online so far.
Editorial: PLoS Medicine Series on Big Food: The Food Industry Is Ripe for Scrutiny, by the PLoS Medicine Editors, PLoS Medicine, 19 Jun 2012 | info:doi/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001246
Essay: Big Food, Food Systems, and Global Health, by David Stuckler, Marion Nestle, PLoS Medicine, 19 Jun 2012 | info:doi/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001242
Essay: Food Sovereignty: Power, Gender, and the Right to Food, by Rajeev C. Patel, PLoS Medicine, 26 Jun 2012 | info:doi/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001223
Policy Forum: Soda and Tobacco Industry Corporate Social Responsibility Campaigns: How Do They Compare?, by Lori Dorfman, Andrew Cheyne, Lissy C. Friedman, Asiya Wadud, Mark Gottlieb, PLoS Medicine, 19 Jun 2012 | info:doi/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001241
Policy Forum: Manufacturing Epidemics: The Role of Global Producers in Increased Consumption of Unhealthy Commodities Including Processed Foods, Alcohol, and Tobacco, by David Stuckler, Martin McKee, Shah Ebrahim, Sanjay Basu, PLoS Medicine, 26 Jun 2012 |info:doi/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001235
Twitter chat: To follow the Twitter chat that took place on June 27, search for #plosmedbigfood.
More next week. Stay tuned.
I have a soft spot in my nutritionist’s heart for broccoli. It’s a lovely vegetable when fresh and lightly cooked, and is loaded with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, and all those other good things that nutritionists like me encourage everyone to eat and enjoy.
I expressed some of this fondness for broccoli in a 1997 Commentary in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences with this prescient title: “Broccoli sprouts as inducers of carcinogen-detoxifying enzyme systems: Clinical, dietary, and policy implications.”
In it, I quoted President (#41) Bush’s now famous statement:
I do not like broccoli…And I haven’t liked it since I was a little kid and my mother made me eat it. And I’m President of the United States, and I’m not going to eat any more broccoli!’
Even in the 1990s, broccoli had policy implications.
And now the New York Times has come up with a lengthy front-page investigative report on how broccoli came to be used by conservatives as a metaphor for the role of government in health care reform.
The story begins with a question asked by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. If the government can require people to buy health insurance, maybe it could force people to buy broccoli: “Everybody has to buy food sooner or later,” he said. “Therefore, you can make people buy broccoli.”
It turns out that broccoli did not spring from the mind of Justice Scalia. The vegetable trail leads backward through conservative media and pundits. Before reaching the Supreme Court, vegetables were cited by a federal judge in Florida with a libertarian streak; in an Internet video financed by libertarian and ultraconservative backers; at a Congressional hearing by a Republican senator; and an op-ed column by David B. Rivkin Jr., a libertarian lawyer whose family emigrated from the former Soviet Union when he was 10.
The Times report is well worth reading, not least as a case study in how conservatives frame issues. My favorite part is the sidebar on “the broccoli trail.” Here’s the example from April 2012:
Rush Limbaugh, on his radio program:
“You’re telling me that you want the Supreme Court to decide that the government can tell you that you have to buy health insurance and broccoli?”
In late March, New York Times columnist (and Nobel-prize winning economist) Paul Krugman wrote of “Broccoli and Bad Faith.”
Let’s start with the already famous exchange in which Justice Antonin Scalia compared the purchase of health insurance to the purchase of broccoli, with the implication that if the government can compel you to do the former, it can also compel you to do the latter. That comparison horrified health care experts all across America because health insurance is nothing like broccoli.
Why? When people choose not to buy broccoli, they don’t make broccoli unavailable to those who want it. But when people don’t buy health insurance until they get sick — which is what happens in the absence of a mandate — the resulting worsening of the risk pool makes insurance more expensive, and often unaffordable, for those who remain. As a result, unregulated health insurance basically doesn’t work, and never has.
Maybe the best we can do with all this is to eat our broccoli and hope that it keeps us out of the health care system.