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Science, Democracy, and a Healthy Food Policy: Public Comments

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Please note: This page is for submitting comments in advance of the forum. It is not a registration form. To register for the forum, please use the form on the main forum page.

In advance of the Lewis M. Branscomb Forum, "Science, Democracy, and a Healthy Food Policy," coming May 6 in Minneapolis, the Union of Concerned Scientists is seeking ideas and experiences from experts, informed advocates, and engaged citizens to help us identify and showcase effective public policies, programs, and community efforts for advancing healthy food environments.

Submit a public comment by providing your input on the following question:

What organizations, policies, or local programs are leading the charge in using scientific and public health evidence to improve our food environments?

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The most informative and relevant submissions will be featured on the UCS website and blog, and may also be incorporated into the Forum proceedings and recommendations.

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What People Are Saying About Science, Democracy, and Healthy Food Policy

Everyone At the Table For Health (EAT4HEALTH) www.eat4healthpartners.org What is EAT4HEALTH-Detroit? Everybody at the Table for Health (EAT4Health) is a national leadership development initiative of the Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation that aims to fill gaps in the existing food policy advocacy infrastructure by building and leveraging the strengths of grassroots organizations such as EAST MICHIGAN ENVIRONMENTAL ACTION COUNCIL (EMEAC) alongside the expertise of DC-based National Advocacy organizations such as the National Family Farm Coalition (NFFC). This initiative's aim is to foster a more informed, equitable and powerful policy advocacy process resulting in federal food policy that promotes well-being for vulnerable children, their families and communities. Charity Hicks, MI 

Slow Food is an grassroots international nonprofit founded in Italy in the late 1980s to counter the rise of fast food and fast life, the disapperance of local food traditions and peoples dwindling interest in the food they eat, and how our food choices affect the rest of the world. Slow Food promotes good, clean, and fair food in communities through educational programs, events, and initiatives. It unites the pleasure of food with responsibility, sustainability, and harmony with nature. It is a collaborative organization that works with hospitals/health organizations, schools, libraries, and like-minded nonprofits to promote regionalized food economies, healthy food and garden programs, and shift political food policy on local, national, and international levels. It is the essence of Act Local, Think Global. Slow Food is represented in 150 countries, with 250 local community chapters within the United States. Slow Food is also linked to the Edible School Yard program that began in Berkley CA, b/c the founder of the program, Alice Waters, is also the current Vice President of Slow Food International. I serve as President of the local Wyoming/Idaho chapter, Slow Food in the Tetons. We seek to create a sustainable regionalized food economy for the Greater Yellowstone region among other initiatives. Please check out slowfood.com, slowfoodusa.org, and tetonslowfood.org Audrey Smith, Wilson WY

Research surrounding nutritional standards and requirements for school lunch programs! Marta Monti, MN

The expansion of area community gardens and advocacy for participation by citizens collecting welfare can offer vital public education to better inform society about the importance of a healthful lifestyle.   Public health research, accompanied by socio-economic initiatives, can help us to better understand where the problems exists and why.   We need to outline research hypotheses and variables to understand what stance, amount of knowledge, and drive any community has to pursue public health.  From this, we can begin to improve public health evidence, and target organizations, local programs and policies in order to help improve these areas of public health. Brittany Sandberg, Coldwater, MI

The MN Food Council Network is working to  create a Minnesota Food Council through the passage of legislation. As well as to inform, organize and facilitate communication between all food system stakeholders to create a socially, economically, and ecologically sustainable food system that promotes health: the current and future health of individuals, communities, and the natural environment.  http://www.mnfoodcouncilnetwork.org/  Karlie Cole, Minneapolis, MN

Please take a look at Frogtown Farm, a recent 12.7 acre land acquisition in the heart of Saint Paul.  Frogtown Farm will be a hub for a healthy food system that fills gaps in food production, storage, manufacturing, and distribution.  Frogtown Farm aims to be recognized as a destination for those seeking learning, innovation, reflection, celebration, and authentic community. This urban farm will serve as a model for multi-cultural community and a catalyst for economic development, wealth creation, community pride, and sustainability. Fritz Ebinger, MN

My local food co-op, Seward Coop, recently held a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) fair, bringing many farmers to the city so people could find a local farmer to buy a share of their harvest while supporting local farming. This is a great resource, as are the area's many successful food coops. Minneapolis also has a program to support more produce available at local markets in food deserts , but this still needs a lot of work.  More effective in changing eating habits is my granddaughter's public school, Dowling Environmental School, which has done a great job of getting the kids to sample new vegetables or other healthy eating. This is part of a public school program which has a huge impact on the kids and their families. It is great to have a picky eater come home and insist that we all try some kale! Thora Reynolds, Minneapolis, MN

Based on my observations and local experiences in California, it is the grassroots movements that have taken the charge of creating a changed food system(s).  Through a local approach to food access, groups share knowledge and information about growing food; utilizing both some Western science approaches as well as local ecological knowledge has worked well for many individuals, in providing them with a sustainable food source. Krisha Hernandez-Pruhs, Los Angeles, CA

Encouraging SNAP benefit use at farmers markets through "double bucks" programs has been very successful where implemented. The benefits of increased fresh fruit and vegetable consumption are profound and the more subtle benefits of connecting to food and community in this setting should not be discounted either. These programs should be expanded as part of a preventative health initiative. Robin Ayers-Lee, San Francisco, CA

Food policy councils and food systems working groups. Two examples that I am familiar with are the Los Angeles Food Policy Council and the UC Santa Cruz Food Systems Working Group.  Dan Yuhasz, CA

The Houston Food Policy Workgroup - hosted by Houston Tomorrow - is a coalition of nonprofits, local health departments, rural interests, farmers, community activists, and citizens working to nurture the growth of a sustainable local food system, accessible to all, through education, collaboration, communication, and creation of a food policy council for the Houston region.  We are very much a work in progress and only working seriously now to form a regional council that will be science and public health based. However, we have successfully spread the message of health and food in all policies to a wide diversity of entities.  The City of Houston Community Transformation Initiative has worked to bring together public health efforts with food policy and built environment concerns. http://www.houstontx.gov/health/communitytransformation/  The Harris County Public Health and Environmental Services division conducted a multi-year, multi-disciplinary effort called Healthy Living Matters that includes a food assessment of Harris County and the surrounding area. http://www.healthylivingmatters.net  We hope to extend this work soon to a Houston Regional Food Assessment for the entire 13-County region that will serve as the guide for actions of the future metropolitan Food Policy Council (modeled after the work of the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission in Philadelphia).  We believe many of these efforts will take years to come to fruition, but the spirit of uniting health policy with regional food policy and other disciplines is beginning to take hold in the Houston region. Jay Crossley,  TX

Transition towns: a movement to locally and distributively develop alternatives to problems of food availability and quality, transportation, education, and energy (in particular, to address the dependence in all of these areas on fossil fuels and long-distance, centralized distribution networks).   http://www.transitionnetwork.org/support/what-transition-initiative Henrique De Aguiar Valim, New York, NY

The Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention (NEOP) program, which is the California Department of Public Health's SNAP-Ed program. In particular, the Communities of Excellence (CX3) initiative. http://www.cdph.ca.gov/programs/cpns/Pages/CX3_Main_Navgation.aspx Anna Rosenbaum,  Sacramento, CA

Funding by NYS State and now Federal Government to assist organizations to establish farmers markets and fresh food stands and to provide support through technical assistance, community nutrition education,  and the vouchers made available to low income families and seniors through senior programs, health facilities, etc. Nancy Marr, Stony Brook, NY

We are fortunate to have so many engaged groups in Minnesota: SHIP, MDH, Minnesota Extension, Local County Public Health, MDA, Minnesotan's for Healthy Kids coalition,  AHA, Legislators and elected local officials who champion healthy living initiatives, Consumers' buying practices, Minnesota's Food Charter...and many more.  Thank you and keep up the good work! Ann Erickson, MN

Full Belly Farm's CSA is a great community resource. Not only do they provide a box of organic locally grown produce,but they also send out a newsletter educating subscribers about a variety of farm & food related issues, including the lives of the farmers & farmworkers. They invite subscribers to regularly visit the farm, so we have a direct relationship with the growers of our food and they work to improve food policy. Shosh Blachman, Berkeley, CA

The Food Trust in Philadelphia has been doing a lot of work with the Philadelphia Public School System, and with the Healthy Corner Stores Program (to shore up neighborhoods that might be food insecure) and with increasing the number of farmers markets & grocery stores in low-income communities. Dianne Moore, Narberth, PA

In Ann Arbor we have seen growth in the number of farmer's markets in different parts of town.  Organic farms offer shares of the crop to individuals for a fee and you get a share of the harvest of fresh organic vegetables each week. marie kung, Ypsilanti, MI

In Sonoma County Ca. (As in much of the country) there is movement towards local and sustainable food sourcing, with more "farmers markets" available throughout the area.  We are getting closer to the way our grandparents fed their families, and hopefully, away from "factory farming"practices. Mary Zie, Santa Rosa, CA

Global Environmental Fund, offices within USAID, OECD, OXFAM, and WRI all have groups working to understand context dependent phenomena to facilitate ag production in response to climate change.  These organizations in part or in whole are exploring the context dependent phenomena, e.g. socio-economic, soil ecology, limiting ag production and likely to suffer in response to climate variation.  Some organizations are involved in developing or incorporating community complexity ecology as a means of increase ag. resiliency and robustness to climate variation. Cyd Hamilton, Oak Ridge, TN

Improving the "food environment" must include addressing the number of people doing without nutritious meals. Feeding America, Inc. combats hunger through a collaborative of corporate, private, NGO's  and national food assistance programs, feeding an untold number of otherwise hungry children, seniors and families. Feeding America's network of food banks, with their coordinated Farm-to-Food Bank connections, ensure fresh fruits, vegetables and other produce can be added to the free meals distributed by the millions daily to American families. Moreover, climate change impacts on quality and quantity of food available are the forefront of research Feeding America includes in its efforts to eradicate hunger. Victoria Hudson, Oakland, CA

We have a local farm group and a marketing group called Locovore.  They market local products but reach a very small clientele.   They are also expensive.  I don't think anything will work until subsidies are transferred from commodity crops to fruits and vegetables. Brenda Pace, Bend, OR

The League of Women Voters is currently researching and coming to consensus on the best ways that government can influence the production of healthy food and food environments. Venus Gintowt, Palatine, IL

Mountain Roots - a East River Valley-wide farm-to-table, local food project with 9 production gardens. A volunteer-run, food-donation centered project that feeds the elderly, food-insecure, meals-on-wheels participants, and those generously donating their time & love to raise gorgeous crops here in our Colorado high mountain environment. Beth Carter, Crested Butte, CO

I'm not sure about organizations or policies that are leading the charge.  I think some elected representatives, including Senator Dick Durbin from Illinois, are interested in the issue and seem to be doing as much as possible given the current climate in the nation's capital. Wenona Whitfield, Carbondale, IL

Former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg's work to eliminate hydrogenated oils in food, ban jumbo soft drinks and ban smoking in public spaces as some examples of his work for New Yorkers.  Susan Olshan, New York, NY

The Lynchburg (VA) Area Food Council seeks to address issues of the local food environment, specifically resolving the food desert and increasing access to healthy foods through community gardening. http://lynchburgareafoodcouncil.org/  LESLIE HOGLUND, LYNCHBURG, VA

A number of grassroot organizations on a local level (MA), Alternative Community Empowerment, South Boston Grows. On a national level, Real Food Challenge and more. Devon Grodkiewicz, Glen Gardner, NJ

Community-supported agriculture farms are connecting millions directly to healthy local and fresh foods.  These farms are important leaders around health, sustainable agriculture, and local food economies.  Because they bring together farmers and eaters into a shared venture, they have broad educational reach and engage citizens in a variety of efforts to build a green, fair and healthy food economy.  Roy Bossingham, Clinton, WI

The MN Department of Health in partnership with local public health departments and other partners has been a leader at the state and local level in fostering policy, systems and environmentaly change to improve food environments across the state. Lisa Gemlow, St. Paul, MN

The Minnesota Department of Health in partnership with local public health, funders, grassroots and grasstops leadership. Public health practitioners and decisionmakers, using state legislative support and federal CDC and healthcare reform money are building robust networks, creative cross-sector partnerships, and innovative strategies to change food environments and the infrastructure for supply, sourcing, and serving healthy foods produced by nearby farmers and entrepreneurs. Margaret Adamek, MN.

Alameda Backyard Growers offers free sustainable permaculture lectures.  Their releaf (tree planting) and gleaning committee partner with agencies and the local food bank to donate excess fresh fruits and vegetables to enhance nutrition for food bank recipients. Cynthia La Croix, Alameda, CA

I would highly recommend the Health Sciences Institute in  Baltimore,  MD.   Their extensive research and results from scientists and medical professionals is greatly deserving of  an honest review.   It documents successful research and treatments for many of our human illnesses that have been  done in Europe, Japan,  Germany, and some other countries.   There are many harmful chemicals and additives used in the U.S. that are banned by other countries from use in food and beverages.  What benefit from them is so important that they are allowed into our food?    What justification for such use overpowers the impact on our health?  Health care costs are continuing to rise.  Does this not seriously  demand the  timely evaluation of  colored dyes and anti-biotics also allowed in food?    Many thanks for your work and for requesting our citizen's comments. Penny Moates, Marietta, GA

In our area, Occupy Santa Rosa had a great meeting discussing the issues of GMO foods and good nutrition, led by Ed Bauman who heads a college of nutrition in a local city of Penngrove, CA.  The annual Santa Rosa Heirloom Festival is a wonderful forum which presents all kinds of farming, healthy food, and gardening booths and displays and products, a lot of information re farmers markets, and dozens of speakers re food and agriculture issues, including the featured speaker (at the last event), Vendana Shiva. Linda Swartz, Cazadero, CA

Austin's Sustainable Food Center (SFC) does so.  Their description from their website: "[the SFC strengthens] the local food system and [improves] access to nutritious, affordable food.   SFC envisions a food-secure community where all children and adults grow, share, and prepare healthy, local food.  "Through organic food gardening, relationships with area farmers, interactive cooking classes and nutrition education, children and adults have increased access to locally grown food and are empowered to improve the long-term health of Central Texans and our environment." Shirley Martin, Austin, TX

Growing Power in Milwaukee, WI is a good model for bringing community members together to grow and distribute healthy food in urban settings. Mark McDonough, Racine, WI

Farm-to-Table seems most effective for local improvement,  but there remains a massive problem re Big Ag and whether the resulting damage is worth the benefits. Judith Routledge, Los Angeles, CA

Local "urban desert" initiatives, local training of young people to grow food, true local farmers markets. Linda Sekura, Maple Heights, OH

Bob Quinn of Big Sandy, MT is using science to develop all manner of products on his farm. He grows all kinds of organic products. He started an oil rental business to local restaurants and works with MSU to do even more. He's always experimenting to get more and better products. Della D Dalaney, Big Sandy, MT

The Marshall Grange in Garden Valley, CA is developing  a program to present reliable information about food and water issues, to support community well-being, and to develop fruitful action-oriented events. Martha Austin, Garden Valley, CA

Restaurants that have their own gardens (including rooftop), schools that have gardens or small farms (especially those that involve kids in the gardening, such as Baltimore), organizations that educate and inspire individuals about growing their own food (such as ECO - Environmental and Conservation Organization in Hendersonville NC) -- all of these contribute to a movement toward increased self-sufficiency, connectedness to the land, and access to healthy fresh produce. Melissa Melum, Hendersonville, NC

As we change our eating habits, with less emphasis on meat, and more on grains,nuts, fruit, and vegetables, we must also protect our soil.   With ever decreasing arable land and extreme climate- change- induced weather patterns, we must protect every  acre of farmland for future generations.  This means keeping soil healthy and productive, encouraging long-term stable yields, and phasing out energy- and chemical- intensive monocropping.   Fourteen  years ago internationally renowned soil scientists at the Cornell Waste Management Institute (CWMI)  warned that the current government  policy  advocating the agricultural use of sewage sludge (biosolids)  " does not protect human health, agricultural productivity, or the environment."  Citizens for Sludge-Free Land [sludgefacts.org] applauds  the CWMI, the Rodale Institute, the Sierra Club, the  NRDC, the Organic Consumers Union, the Food Rights Network, the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, the National Farmer's Union, and many other organizations for opposing the use of toxics-containing sewage sludge and sludge products to grow the nation's food. Caroline Snyder, NH

Here in Anacortes we are working on a Vision 2030 plan for Transition Fidalgo & Friends.  We are about to publish this plan and submit it to our city government, essential organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce, and as many businesses as we can afford to include.  Copies will also be available at our local library. Heather Burke, Anacortes, WA

Share Our Strength's Cooking Matters is addressing policies and creates local programs to improve food access and education throughout the country. Lilah Handler, Chicago, IL

Our local food bank now has a separate vehicle that acts as a mobile produce stand, which is invaluable to those living in our urban, mostly minority  "food deserts" and particularly benefitting the elderly and disabled. Robertina Steele, Sarasota, FL

Shoals Clean Air Clean Water is a grassroots movement to monitor and lessen the impact of poultry CAFOs on the local enviroment and educate the community of the health, economic and envirmental costs of large poultry operations in Surry County, NC. North Carolina has the rise rate of increase of ammonia emisions in the nation according to the National Atmospheric Deposition Program. (66% in ten years.) It is our goal to keep our air pure and our water clean and reduce the impact of the integrated poultry industry. Velvalea Cunningham , Pinnacle, NC

The Urban Food and Farm Coalition is leading here in Wilmington, DE. Jim Black, Wilmington, DE

I support the Organic Consumers Association as well as the Cornucopia Institute because I believe they are working to improve the environment - including the production of wholesome foods. Marilyn Caplin, Coral Gables, FL 

South East Food Access Alliance in San Francisco is leading in working to improve our food environments through a program called Food Guardians.  Young adults from the local neighborhood help promote transformation of small, mom-and-pop neighborhood stores carrying fresh produce, whole grain products, healthier milk and dairy products. Mishwa Lee, San Francisco, CA