Finding Health in the New Farm Bill

by Karla Lester, MD

“Farm bill is not miraculous” by Alan Guebert, Farm and Food

“Farm bill plows under direct payments:  New subsidies in legislation could be just as generous”

by Mary Clare Jalonick and Steve Karnowski, The Associated Press

These are just a couple of the headlines found in one day of our local newspaper regarding the new Farm bill.  The new Farm Bill is a nearly 1,000 page dream of a read, I’m sure.   I’m reading “To Kill a Mockingbird” right now, so probably won’t get to the farm bill for a while.  In summary, it states, “more corn.”  As a child of food insecurity, the most disheartening and indefensible parts of the Farm bill are the SNAP cuts.  To find out more, read my past blog, “Did you grow up hungry?” 

Read “Omnivore’s Dilemma”, view “Food Inc.”, or “A Place at the Table”, and you will quickly learn that the U.S. Farm Bill is not a bill that holds improving the public’s health as a priority. 

Hang with me here during this flashback……………

My first days of Teach a Kid to Fish pretty much went like this:

  • Show up to loaned office.
  • Google journal articles and nonprofit info.  I’m now a founder and executive director of a nonprofit with $0 after all. 
  • Make calls to anyone anywhere who might have a crumb of information to help me get this nonprofit going. 
  • Go to meet with this person who would tell me I absolutely needed to meet with that person who would tell me to go back to my office and keep Googling.
  • It was essentially, “Hey what’s up childhood obesity epidemic?”  Then me crying uncle, BAM, knock out, round one.    Day after day after day…………

During a productive Googling session, I ran across a talk by a physician from Stanford.   To summarize,  she said that the only way to solve the obesity epidemic will be with big picture changes in food policy and improvements in built communities.   Big picture food policy equates to a Farm bill that supports the public’s health, addresses hunger and affordability of healthy foods.  Changes in our built community, means complete streets and safe routes to school that infuse daily physical activity into our lives.  For someone who just started a community level initiative, this was a bit disheartening.  How could I inform big picture policy changes sitting in a loaned office in Lincoln, Ne armed with a vision and Google? 

“To solve the childhood obesity epidemic, it will take a social revolution.  Each community creating its own solution.”  – William Dietz, M.D., PhD.

“Creating community solutions for children’s health” is the vision of Teach a Kid to Fish.  An organizational goal of Teach a Kid to Fish is to increase access and promotion of healthy foods.  We do that through programs such as Little Voices for Healthy Choices.  Nearly 40 child care centers have improved nutrition policies through this program.  We are launching a healthy corner store initiative with a collective of partners.  Teach a Kid to Fish partners with the LLCHD and multiple other partners to disseminate 54321Go! messaging. 

But, what will change the world?  I think it will be the slow food movements happening in communities across the country.  Slow food movements will eventually take hold and slowly create a tipping point.  The slow food movement is the antithesis of the fast food movement.  Right now, the slow food movement in our community has many partners- community crops, farmer’s markets, high end grocery stores, nutrition experts, organic farmers, faith groups,etc.  I propose that everything the slow food movement represents will help communities address access, promotion, and affordability of healthy food and health disparities.  The slow food movement will improve the health of our community.  Most importantly, the slow food movement represents the most important value of each and every community- Family.    

To increase access, promotion and affordability of healthy foods:

  • Increase family mealtimes
  • Grow a garden
  • Support farmer’s markets
  • Buy local
  • Purchase a summer farm share
  • Become engaged with your community’s slow food movement 

Stay tuned for my next blog, “America’s war on boy’s health”. 

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