Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Governments play a role in deciding how we eat, citizens can play a role in government

Marion Nestle is a professor in nutrition, public health, and sociology at New York University.  She writes extensively on food policy issues and her research focuses on how science and society influence dietary advice and practice. She is the author of many books and currently writes a monthly Food Matters column for the San Francisco Chronicle, and blogs daily at www.foodpolitics.com and at the Atlantic Food ChannelHer most recent Food Politics post struck a chord with me and I wanted to share it:


'When San Francisco voted to eliminate toys from McDonald’s Happy Meals, the Forum at the Harvard School of Public Health invited comments on this issue.  Here’s what I had to say about it:
I’m surprised at the mayor’s comment that “parents, not politicians, should decide what their children eat,” because the San Francisco ordinance is not about the food. It’s about the toys.
Nobody is stopping parents from ordering Happy Meals for their kids. But as everyone knows, kids only want Happy Meals because of the toys.
The idea that government has no role in food choice is ludicrous. The government is intimately involved in food choices through policies that make the cost of some foods—those containing subsidized corn or soybeans, for example—cheaper than others.
It is not an accident that five dollars at McDonald’s will buy you five hamburgers or only one salad. It is not an accident that the indexed price of fruits and vegetables has increased by 40% since the early 1980s, whereas the indexed price of sodas has decreased by 30%. Right now, agricultural policies support our present industrialized food system and strongly discourage innovation and consumption of relatively unprocessed foods.
Agricultural policies are the results of political decisions that can be changed by political will. If we want agricultural policies aligned with health policies—and I certainly do—we need to exercise our democratic rights as citizens and push for changes that are healthier for people and the planet.
Yes, individuals are the ultimate arbiters of food choice. But our present food system makes unhealthful eating the default. We need to be working for government policies that make healthy eating the default. The San Francisco ordinance is a small step in that direction'.

I 100% agree with you Marion.  And I hope that others will soon come to understand and be concerned with this.


But how can we, as ordinary citizens, make a difference in the politics of our respective countries?  I think that it IS possible, but this is a rather lengthy discussion for another day or two or three...  


However, I would like to leave you with one last thought on this: 


vote-today
In order to even begin making a difference, we need to first know where political parties stand on issues of interest (i.e. food policies), and then actually go out and VOTE! In our last Canadian election (2008), only 59% of the eligible population voted. Voter turnout has been on the decline and this 2008 proportion is the lowest on record. Even more concerning is that voter turnout is lowest in the youngest age groups,the so-called future of this country...