Why Youth Voices Matter The Farm Bill – Part 2

Here are some big reasons why students may want to become involved in the farm bill process:

Food for hungry children

#1. They believe that no child, regardless of their socio-economic status should go hungry. 

The farm bill provides food to eligible low income individuals and families through a program known as SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). SNAP replaced the old food stamp program.

Here’s how it benefits kids:

  • The highest percentage of SNAP recipients are children.
  • SNAP significantly decreases the amount of kids that go hungry. Children with full bellies generally can concentrate better at school, get better grades and have a better sense of well-being.
  • These benefits generally increase consumption of healthier foods to help reduce the risk of present or future chronic diseases; such as heart disease, diabetes and obesity.

Local farmers market

#2. They support local foods

Local foods allow youth to know exactly how their food is grown and where it comes from – in other words food transparency.

  • They can visit farms and speak directly to the farmer.
  • The farm bill helps local farmers reach more consumers.
  • Local foods tend to be grown more sustainably and without harmful pesticides.
  • Local foods sold at local farmers markets bring the community together in a meaningful way.

Nutrition Education

#3. They recognize that more people will select nutritious foods if they understand the benefits of choosing them.

  • Recipients are currently receiving nutrition education on the benefits of foods that they are getting through the SNAP program.
  • They receive support on how to cook these foods at home.
  • They may teach recipients how to shop.
  • Nutrition education on healthy foods encourages consumption, which in turn helps reduce the risk of disease.

Fruits and veggies

#4. They believe that fresh fruits and vegetables should be subsidized first over other foods

  • Fruits and vegetables in the farm bill are considered a “specialty” crop (whatever that means??) and are not subsidized. This is why they may not be affordable to low-income individuals and families.
  • However, SNAP’s double up food bucks program does allow recipients to double the value of their SNAP benefits when they purchase fresh fruits and veggies at a farmers market or grocery store.
  • Students can advocate for these “super-healthy” foods to be subsidized first over other not-so-nutritious foods or participate in the double up food bucks program.

The senate bill is proposing establishing a “food is medicine” pilot where facilitators prescribe fresh fruits and vegetables to individuals and families.

Young Farmer

#5. They believe that it should support beginning farmers

  • It’s becoming challenging for young people to become farmers.
  • The startup fees are enormous; equipment alone can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
  • Land is hard to come by and is often sold to large farming operations.
  • It’s challenging to make a living farming and so many opt out of this as a career.

So what if like me, these food politics make student’s heads spin! They can choose a more grassroots approach to changing our national food system. They may choose to “vote with their fork” and purchase more foods from local farmers, or volunteer at a local hunger organization. They may help raise funds for young farmers to get started, or become involved in local legislation to help them purchase land. They may teach cooking or nutrition classes centered on fresh fruits and vegetables. Really, the skies the limit!

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Why Youth Voices Matter The Farm Bill – Part 1

The farm bill is probably the most significant piece of legislation in our country related to farming and the foods that are served on our dinner tables.  It is reauthorized every 5 years and this is the year – 2018.

The farm bill originated in 1933 as part of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s (FDR) new deal. It was the direct result of the great depression and also the dust bowl (severe drought on prairie lands in the U.S.) that was happening at the time.

Its original purpose was to balance fair food prices for consumers with a decent wage for farmers. It helped ensure that there was an adequate amount of high-quality, nutritious food for all to eat and to protect our natural resources (air, water and soil).

The farm bill also determines crops to be subsidized (pay part of the cost of producing in order to reduce prices for consumers), which ultimately determines the majority of crops farmers will grow.

Currently, the biggest chunk of it provides food access to low-income individuals and families who cannot afford it (80% of it).

The next farm bill is expected to be finalized in September of 2018 and boy there is a lot of disagreement between the house and senate on what should be included!

The farm bill is a great way for students to begin to recognize that they have a voice in the legislative process and can start to have an impact on the future of food.

So why should young people care about the farm bill?  Because it is everywhere! It impacts everything from food that is offered to low income families, food that is served in their cafeteria (farm to school), food waste, organic food and nutrition research, nutrition education, fruit and vegetable availability and costs, seeds, soil and other conversation efforts.

Tune in tomorrow for some big reasons why students may want to become involved with the farm bill.

Did you know? One of the biggest influencers of subsidies was Secretary of Agriculture, Earl Butz. Back in the 1970’s he decided that soybean and corn would be heavily subsidized, resulting in A LOT of farmers growing these crops in order to survive. Hence the reason we have corn as fuel, animal feed and high fructose corn syrup. It’s in everything!!!