Mark's Food Policy Blog

Finding Solutions to Today's Food System Challenges

Looking Back, Looking Ahead

Thank You, Survey Respondents!

Thank you to the 193 people who responded to my December food movement survey. survey-results_jpegLet me also thank the couple of dozen others who responded late thinking I was just joking about the deadline. The information, especially the responses to the open-ended questions, was incredibly useful. My son Peter, for whom the survey was a way of helping me as well as completing requirements for a graduate school class, is compiling the final results. But in the meantime, here’s a brief look at some of the compilations:

  • 67 percent of the respondents currently belong to a food coalition, food network, or food policy council
  • 64 percent said their awareness of the work of other food organizations in their region has increased “a lot” as a result of belonging to one of the above groups.
  • 57 percent said that belonging to one of these groups has helped advance their own organization’s mission
  • 87 percent either strongly agree (61 percent) or somewhat agree (26 percent) that their region would benefit from organizations working together more closely
  • 89 percent either strongly agree or somewhat agree that the nation’s food movement would be improved through greater food organization cooperation
  • Respondents said that conferences (57 percent), online forums (54 percent), and more extensive leadership (69 percent) would improve cooperation among food organizations

The final results will be posted in a future blog.

Do We Gotta Deal for You!car_salesman

As I look ahead at my 2017 appearance schedule, I see some openings big enough to drive a truck through. So, fueled by an itch to get out on the road and be of service, I want to let folks know that I’m for hire. Need a speaker for a conference, annual meeting, or campus speaker series? How about some consultation and training for an emerging food policy council or even an existing one that might need a little tune-up? Let’s call it Mark Winne Associates 2017 White Sale – all reasonable offers will be considered; money talks, nobody walks; discounts available as long as they last. And for some limited resource communities, we might just surprise you with what we can do to make a deal work! Give us a call or send us a text (860) 558-8226, or email us at win5m@aol.com. I also respond particularly well to handwritten notes.

Campus Hunger Shows No Sign of Abating

Last spring I posted a blog about the rise in food insecurity at our nation’s colleges and universities. From endless tuition hikes to rising housing costs, students have been forced to forgo meals to pay the bills that allow them to attend class. As I stated in that post, too much reliance has been placed on the time-honored but wholly ineffective solution of student-sponsored food pantries. Rather than finding systemic solutions such as reducing the costs associated with attending college, well-intentioned young people are earnestly helping their own by distributing donated food.

Now another report, Hunger on Campus: The Challenge of Food Insecurity for College Students, which draws on what the authors claim is the broadest student sample to date, offers yet more data on the worsening problem. Over one in five students who responded indicated that they suffered from very low food insecurity – 25 percent at community colleges and 20 percent at four-year schools. The rates are considerably higher for students of color. While the authors recommend “creative ways” of addressing the problem such as developing more campus food pantries and gardens, they did stress that the primary focus of college policymakers should be on connecting students to federal food programs such as SNAP. This is obviously a problem/symptom that’s not going away anytime soon. Students and the organizations that represent them should keep the pressure on policymakers until they focus more intently on the structural economic problems that face higher education in America.

Trump’s Plan to Mess with Immigrants Will Mess with Idaho Agriculture

Not too long ago I posted a piece about my recent trip to Idaho which, of course, required me to note how conservative that state is. Well, according to a piece in the Idaho Statesman, Trump could do something that would really piss off the state’s conservatives to say nothing of Big Ag. The President-elect’s plan to deport undocumented workers would likely damage Idaho’s multi-billion dollar agricultural industries, particularly its factory dairy farms. Idaho agriculture “employs more than 40 percent of Idaho’s undocumented immigrant population, and more than 25 percent of all state ag workers are undocumented,” reports the Statesman. As a result, Trump’s deportation agenda is likely to hurt Idaho’s farms more than those in any other state. Irma Morin, CEO of the Community Council of Idaho, an anti-poverty agency that works extensively with the state’s Latino community, told me that she “was shocked to hear how many people feel fear about the new administration – not just Latinos but also LGBT, women, and people of color.” Maybe we can now add large scale, arch-conservative farmers to that list.

Need a Lift? Here Are a Few Words from Wendell

I was very fortunate to participate recently in the celebrations surrounding the Center for a Livable Future’s 20th Anniversary – an occasion that was deliciously marked by quality-time with Wendell Berry. He and his wife, Tanya, made themselves generously available over three days for presentations, interviews, seminars, and small group discussions. Being the Wendell Berry “groupie” that I am, I tried to capture as many precious utterances as possible. Here are a few that stuck with me:

Speaking of climate change: “Everywhere we’re running at very high temperatures; we’re too comfortable.”

During the early part of his career, Wendell held a teaching position at N.Y.U. “But I left to go back to Kentucky because I decided I needed livestock.”

Quoting his father, Wendell said, “If you want people to love their country, let them own a piece of it.”

Referring to his own Kentucky mountains: “The first time I saw a bulldozer strip a hillside to expose the coal I was shocked.”

“Mother Nature is a munificent mother, but not a forgiving one. If you let Her work for you, She works at a minimum wage. If you force Her to work against you, She charges a fortune.”

Speaking of politics: “I’m still on the losing side, and that’s where I’ve taken up residence.”

“Hope? I can’t give anyone hope; it has to come out of you. This is a beautiful world, so there’s a lot worth hoping for.”

“People are trained to be consumers. When a new product comes along we stand up like a dog on our hind legs and snap at it.”

“I always work hard to validate my prejudices.”

“Fear is the worst form of appeal. It has a short shelf-life. We need to appeal to love.”

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