Candidate Forum on Local Food Issues

What has been taking up all my time?

The Burlington Food Council is hosting a mayoral candidate forum on local food issues. Yes, this Saturday, the 25th, from 6:00 – 8:00 PM at the Sustainability Academy at Lawernce Barnes, 123 North Street.

We had a brilliant young up-and-coming designer (who wishes to remain anonymous) do a poster for us, and I will be cooking chili & cornbread … with lots of help. See you there.

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Asked (By the USDA) for my thoughts …

Ok, well not personally. But Kathleen Merrigan, Deputy Secretary of Agrciultre of the US Department of Agriculture asked Net Impact for student input. And based on work with the Slow Living Summit, the Marlboro College Chapter, was chosen to contribute. As I got my MBA there, I had the opportunity to throw somehting into the mix …

Continue to strengthen Farm To School Programs Many thoughtful suggestions have been givenin the previous post. Farm to School programs, by providing a direct connection between children and their food, develop health behaviors and strengthen the community’s ability to feed itself.

Continue to lower the threshold for open community sites (I believe it is now 40%) for school lunch, breakfast, and the Seamless Summer programs across the board. The resulting increased participation allows schools more flexibility in producing healthy meals.

Work to align the farm subsidy program spending with the nutritional requirements for USDA school and hunger relief programs – and with the USDA’s own nutritional recommendations. Farm subsidies accounts for the vast majority of USDA program expenditures, and most of these dollars go to sugar, corn and soy – which in turn used to produce factory farmed meat and highly processed carbohydrate rich junk foods. These are not the types of food that the USDA itself recommends, or requires in their school food programs. The USDA should base the distribution of farm subsidy dollars on the their own dietary recommendations and the nutritional needs of children.

Move towards scale-appropriate food safety regulations. “Industrial” food needs industrial safety regulations in order to keep the food supply safe. However, applying these regulations across the board unnecessarily cripples small farmers and food-based entrepreneurs. A small scale dairy or slaughter operation can produce safe, wholesome food for direct sale under a much different food safety regime that a CAFO or milk plant processing thousands of gallons a day. The USDA can should and support scale-appropriate regulation.

Move funding to programs that directly strengthen communities through basic research and project funding, such as ATTRA (now housed at NCAT due to budget cuts …), SARE, AFSIC, and the Rural Development Community Facilities Financing Program. These dollars directly fund economic development that stays in the community, and builds robust food systems that provide may social, environmental, and health benefits. Large commodity subsidies, on the other hand, tend to flow dollars to large agribusiness corporations, which leave the community.

Pursue the recommendations made to identify alternatives to annual applications through continued pilot testing of the use of ACS (American Community Survey, conducted by the US Census), and the use of a community based Socioeconomic survey as means to authorize districts. The bill did not fund these recommendations made in section 104 of the Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010. In addition to providing an efficient, data-based way to ensure that funds go to schools in need, these methods contextualize childhood nutrition as a community issue and provide a rich set of data that would allow us to strengthen whole-community responses to the issue.

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Another Reason for this amendment, or, Vote with Your Dollars

Even if the majority of us felt that passing this amendment was the right thing to do, our voices would be drowned by chorus of corporate dollars gaining access to rooms, people, meetings, and decisions that you and I will never be a part of.

This very fact – that our human voices will be drowned out by the avalanche of bought public opinion paid for by the very corporate interests that this amendment would reign in – is one of the most compelling arguments for it.

And remember – we can play this game as well as they can.

Vote with your dollars. Don’t give any dollar that you don’t absolutely have to to Corporate America. Invest in land, in your community, in your garden. Buy on Main street, even if it costs more. Find new tool at a yardsale and learn how to use it. Go to the library, fix what you have. Buy good food, cook it yourself, share a meal whenever you can. Invite someone new to the table.

Even giving a dollar to a bum is a better bet that giving a dollar to Walmart – odds are much better you will get something back from it someday.

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Corporate Personhood – Vermont Says “No.”

And so it might take a while to get the Bernie’s constitutional amendment to pass.  you have to go through the house, and the senate.  By a two-thirds majority.  This could take some doing.  And then, the states have to ratify it.  This could take a while.

Or, two thirds of the states could call a Constitutional Convention, out of which could come a bill that, if passed by three fourths of the states, would ammend the constitution.  This has never been done. 

But while we are waiting, once again Vermont will lead the way.  Vermonters Say: Corporations are not people! is organizing to get an item stating such on every town meeting ballot in the state.  There is still time to help.

Public Citizen, Move to Amend and allies are organizing a call for 7 p.m. on Wed., Jan. 4, to talk about the last push on petitions, answer questions, discuss reaching out to your state legislators and talk about Second Anniversary Day of Action activities the week of January 16-20. RSVP here. Call-in Number: (805) 360-1000, Code: 712358#

Burlington City Council has already passed the measure, by a 12-0 vote. 

And, when we get done passing this in Vermont, guess which state is going to lead the call for a constitutional convention?


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