Standing Up for a Healthy Farm Bill

Ellen Haas Health Guide
  • The $286 billion Farm Bill that passed the Senate in December and passed the House earlier in 2007, included a number of provisions that promote healthy eating and access to healthy, local food. Before these provisions become law, the differences in the two bills have to be reconciled by Congress and there is a chance that they can slip between the cracks. That's why FoodFit is standing up for a healthy Farm Bill.

     

    Last week, I went to the Capitol to meet with the staff of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, to demonstrate our support and the support of a growing coalition of groups for the nutrition provisions in the Bill. It is important that Congress respond to the need to make this Farm Bill a "good food bill."

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    Though there are hundreds of provisions in the Farm Bill, for the most part supporting the incomes of farmers, there are also 23 significant "nutrition provisions." From support of Farmer's Markets to support for the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Snack Program, this new direction of the Farm Bill can go a ways towards promoting the health of consumers.

     

     

    The problem of access to healthy food in underserved, low-income communities is a lingering problem that our nation has not yet solved. Support for Community Food Project, a provision in the bill, needs Congressional attention so we can address this issue. Those areas which are predominantly poor, with high levels of diet-related disease, and lacking access to healthy foods are known as "food deserts."

     

    The Community Food Project, started when I was Undersecretary of Agriculture in the ‘90s has been a critical community-based grants program that has developed over 240 locally-led initiatives connecting residents of low income communities with healthy, affordable food. If we are to help these "food deserts" gain access to healthy, local foods in their neighborhoods, the Community Food Projects are critical.

     

    But, funds for the Community Food Projects may not be adequate if the Senate version of $10 million per year for mandatory funding is not accepted by the conference committee. That would be a shame because the Community Food Project has played a major role in empowering communities to solve their own problems and create vital linkages between rural and urban communities.

     

    The nutrition provisions in the Farm Bill will make a difference in the diets of many consumers who will benefit from the access to healthy, local food. This would help to lower the risk of heart disease, cancer and diabetes in vulnerable communities. Congress needs to step up to the plate and ensures that funds for these programs are available.

     

    Here is a delicious, winter soup recipe from Ellen's Healthy Table. It uses winter greens found at your local farmer's market.

Published On: January 23, 2008