Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Food Policy


Recommended Posts

G.

Here's my issue: what on earth does food policy mean?

It's not a precise term, but generally it refers to the institutional attitudes of government agencies regarding food. That's why I say there's always policy: the government can decide to subsidize grain, or decide not to, but either way, the choice is the policy. Policy in general is a fairly blunt instrument; rarely is there a one-size-fits-all solution to problems. But there are problems, and choices have to be made. And in a globalized food economy, we're affected by the choices other countries make as well.

Do you want real vegetables subsidized instead of corn and soy?

Personally I am more in favor of reducing the food subsidy system overall. The food system it was designed to support doesn't really exist any more.

How do you change a culture to want roast cauliflower instead of potato chips?

Let the cost of potato chips rise, and people will eat less of it.

How do you get affordable protein on everyone's table?

If by "protein" you mean meat, then I would say that it is less of a problem. Which is to say, on average, Americans are already eating more protein than is needed nutritionally, so if the cost of meat goes up and people eat less, that's not a negative.

Now, there is hunger and food insecurity in the world, caused in part by the basic tendency of human population to grow to the limits of available resources. One of the problems we face is a system where 40 percent of the food we produce is wasted, overall consumption is increasing, and yet some people are still not getting enough to eat, even in the face of fairly substantial relief efforts. Some of it is just related to poverty, but some of it has to do with land management issues--subsistence farmers not being able to get good crops and fertilizers, and environmental changes--land becoming less productive for various reasons (exhausted and lost to soil erosion).

How do consumers get protected from claims that pomegranate juice cures erectile dysfunction?

The FDA is <i>supposed</i> to watch out for that. Exactly how well they do that is a matter of some controversy. Food manufacturers constantly press the limit of how much they can claim before the FDA calls them on it.

How do you keep consumers from eating too much sugar? too much salt?

It's unlikely that you can. If sugar, especially the cheap HFCS that food processors use, were more expensive, people would take less of it. But there's still going to be demand for it.

Where is that study that says low salt is bad?

The problems of too little salt are fairly well understood. If the salt/water balance in your body gets out of whack, and your cells retain too much water, you will get sick. It's possible to have a too-low salt diet, but you'd have to work at it.

"I think it's a matter of principle that one should always try to avoid eating one's friends."--Doctor Dolittle

blog: The Institute for Impure Science

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ciao Moopheus.

All good points for further discussions. I think my stumbling block here is that we need to address food culture issues and then my hope would be that food policy would follow course.

Just making potato chips more expensive will not encourage a child to beg for roasted cauliflower.

And I guess you missed the recent article in the NYT about low salt. I'll try and dig it up, but it made a case for eating salt. Once again, nutrition guidelines are a moving target.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think my stumbling block here is that we need to address food culture issues and then my hope would be that food policy would follow course.

That would be nice if it actually worked that way. Sure, markets and policy makers do follow demand to a certain extent. But they will resist changes as well. Consider food labeling requirements. Producers want to control the message about their products through their advertising. They don't really want buyers to think about what's in the food, where it came from, the conditions it was produced in, and so on. They want you to believe it's just as wholesome and good for you as they say it is. They say the requirements will destroy their business, even though they are always able to adapt to it. In the 1950s, food producers fought against rules restricting carcinogenic ingredients. They fought ingredient labeling in the 1970s. Has this really impeded their ability to sell ever-increasing quantities of ever-more highly processed food? Hardly.

Just making potato chips more expensive will not encourage a child to beg for roasted cauliflower.

No, but it will make mom less willing to buy. Heck, I'm a vegetarian and I rarely beg for roasted cauliflower. And I do eat potato chips once in a while. Do we need to spend tax money so that potato chip makers can get cheaper vegetable oil? I don't think so.

And I guess you missed the recent article in the NYT about low salt. I'll try and dig it up, but it made a case for eating salt. Once again, nutrition guidelines are a moving target.

Why would you need to make a case for eating salt? You need salt.

"I think it's a matter of principle that one should always try to avoid eating one's friends."--Doctor Dolittle

blog: The Institute for Impure Science

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well, I certainly share your dismay (as I think you know, I'm old and crabby, too), but I don't agree with Stan's original assertion that the problem is that the US has created a system of affordable abundance. Because, if true, then the solution would be to...what...limit choices? And the only way to do that would be through the power of the law? How? Banning fast food? Governing what can and what cannot be sold to a free populace? Prohibiting fast food joints and companies that produce fat- and sugar-laden treats from advertising?

I don't know. I suppose that I think, like most folks, that the problem is obvious.

The solution, not so much.

_______

I agree that the governement has created "a system of affordable abundance" and the fix would be to end government agricultural subsidies. Allow the price of corn, soybeans, and other commodities to rise and fluctuate. If a Coke or a Big Mac costs twice or three times as much, their consumption will drop. The government doesn't need to enact laws banning anything. They just need to let the free market work and stop subsidizing farmers.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think part of the problem is the people who care (enough to make good decisions for themselves and their family, enough to put in the effort to locate, purchase, and prepare healthy foods, heck, even enough to have a discussion about it on the internet) are insulated from the actual problems of hunger, poverty, and hopeless obesity. So it becomes a dialog of, how do we either get people who don't care to actually care (education, volunteering, etc.), or how to do we design systems that sidestep them having to care (government subsidies, price floors, commodity programs, etc.). But I wonder how well either of those will work. I've had very little success influencing people in my own life to make healthier, better food choices, even the ones who can afford it and who are at least at the point of lamenting their eating habits. As a slender, affluent, white professional woman with the luxury of a pretty high, elastic food budget, and a car and the time and resources to spend shopping at farmer's markets and cooking from scratch, I recognize don't really have a clue what it's like in neighborhoods just a few blocks from my own. I think it's pretty easy sit around and brainstorm ways to make poor children demand broccoli. That kind of discussion subtly misses the mark, leaving us feeling like we've pondered important ideas.

Where I feel stymied is that people have to want to change for effective change to happen. And not just that gee, it'd be nice if I ate better, kind of want. I mean, I've been a smoker for 15 years and look at all the efforts various levels of government go to make it more expensive and more inconvenient to smoke. But I still stand out in the snow outside a bar lighting up. It's not that different from the plight of someone who hates cooking, or thinks they can't afford healthy food, or that it's too complicated, or just doesn't understand the importance, or a million other excuses. A lot of those excuses are false, but if that person isn't motivated to change, they're going to pick the hamburger over the 5lb bag of potatoes every single time.

"Nothing you could cook will ever be as good as the $2.99 all-you-can-eat pizza buffet." - my EX (wonder why he's an ex?)

My eGfoodblog: My corner of the Midwest

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The government doesn't need to enact laws banning anything. They just need to let the free market work and stop subsidizing farmers.

I'm willing to bet I will not see that in my lifetime. A bill ending farm subsidies will never make it out of the Senate -- too many Senators hail from agricultural states.

Who cares how time advances? I am drinking ale today. -- Edgar Allan Poe

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think part of the problem is the people who care (enough to make good decisions for themselves and their family, enough to put in the effort to locate, purchase, and prepare healthy foods, heck, even enough to have a discussion about it on the internet) are insulated from the actual problems of hunger, poverty, and hopeless obesity. So it becomes a dialog of, how do we either get people who don't care to actually care (education, volunteering, etc.), or how to do we design systems that sidestep them having to care (government subsidies, price floors, commodity programs, etc.). But I wonder how well either of those will work. I've had very little success influencing people in my own life to make healthier, better food choices, even the ones who can afford it and who are at least at the point of lamenting their eating habits. As a slender, affluent, white professional woman with the luxury of a pretty high, elastic food budget, and a car and the time and resources to spend shopping at farmer's markets and cooking from scratch, I recognize don't really have a clue what it's like in neighborhoods just a few blocks from my own. I think it's pretty easy sit around and brainstorm ways to make poor children demand broccoli. That kind of discussion subtly misses the mark, leaving us feeling like we've pondered important ideas.

Where I feel stymied is that people have to want to change for effective change to happen. And not just that gee, it'd be nice if I ate better, kind of want. I mean, I've been a smoker for 15 years and look at all the efforts various levels of government go to make it more expensive and more inconvenient to smoke. But I still stand out in the snow outside a bar lighting up. It's not that different from the plight of someone who hates cooking, or thinks they can't afford healthy food, or that it's too complicated, or just doesn't understand the importance, or a million other excuses. A lot of those excuses are false, but if that person isn't motivated to change, they're going to pick the hamburger over the 5lb bag of potatoes every single time.

Is the issue really about education? Most poor people around the world are a lot fitter than the typical upper middle class American... and make better food choices, even when they have fattening alternatives etc., Poor people around the world are not necessarily more book educated than poor Americans.. but there are certainly some socio cultural factors at play.

This may seem unrelated but I hope people can meditate on this factoid for a second:

More Americans commit suicide (in absolute & per capita terms).. then the number of Mexicans are killed every year

Think about that an American is more likely to comit suicide than someone in Mexico (with the much reported Drug Cartel wars included) being murdered

There are is something seriously wrong in the culture.. the break down of community, spread of maladaptive cultural norms (which is getting worse & worse).. the United States is dying a slow death and few people seem to want acknowledge or address it.

This is not about whether someone knows Brocoli is good for them & how to cook it.. it is ALOT about the current system's carrot & sticks (subsidies etc.,) and growing economic inequality... but it is also ALOT about large swaths of the country losing hope, losing opportunity, losing self awareness... being too low on the Maslow level.

There are plenty of fat people.. the U.S. is the most obese nation in history and the myth that it is poor urban people is just about not admitting reality. My boss is a multi millionaire and is 75 pounds overweight.. not because of lack of education, choice or opportunity... because he is too stressed & unaware to deal with his stress other than comforting with crap food. This stress-comfort eating sindrome is common throughout all economic levels in the society.

The proto-typical skinny white woman eating salads & walking on a tread mill looking onto 5th Avenue is not skinny because she has more knowledge about what to eat (this sub-group often has its own serious nutritional/health issues).. it is because she has goals, opportunity & hope.. 3 things which are becoming increasingly scarce across the country.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This is not about whether someone knows Brocoli is good for them & how to cook it.. it is ALOT about the current system's carrot & sticks (subsidies etc.,) and growing economic inequality... but it is also ALOT about large swaths of the country losing hope, losing opportunity, losing self awareness... being too low on the Maslow level.

There are plenty of fat people.. the U.S. is the most obese nation in history and the myth that it is poor urban people is just about not admitting reality. My boss is a multi millionaire and is 75 pounds overweight.. not because of lack of education, choice or opportunity... because he is too stressed & unaware to deal with his stress other than comforting with crap food. This stress-comfort eating sindrome is common throughout all economic levels in the society.

The proto-typical skinny white woman eating salads & walking on a tread mill looking onto 5th Avenue is not skinny because she has more knowledge about what to eat (this sub-group often has its own serious nutritional/health issues).. it is because she has goals, opportunity & hope.. 3 things which are becoming increasingly scarce across the country.

That's sort of the point I was trying to make - that those of us who have _____ (fill in the blank) are disconnected from those of us who have not. It's easy for me, someone who doesn't stress eat (and that may be because the things that stress me are, to quote my boyfriend, "first world problems"), sit around proposing solutions and discussion "food policy" like it's going to make a damn bit of difference.

You sort of pointed out an extreme reason - that if we are, as a country, decaying and becoming more soulless (not in a religious sense, I just don't know what other word to use), that does influence our eating habits, probably much more than "food policy" ever will.

Your take on this is very dark. I believe that people have individual power to change their mindsets and circumstances. I just don't believe that other people can make them do so, if they can't find it in themselves. And thus I find discussions of "food policy" among foodies to be a kind of intellectual masturbation some times.

"Nothing you could cook will ever be as good as the $2.99 all-you-can-eat pizza buffet." - my EX (wonder why he's an ex?)

My eGfoodblog: My corner of the Midwest

Link to comment
Share on other sites

That's sort of the point I was trying to make - that those of us who have _____ (fill in the blank) are disconnected from those of us who have not. It's easy for me, someone who doesn't stress eat (and that may be because the things that stress me are, to quote my boyfriend, "first world problems"), sit around proposing solutions and discussion "food policy" like it's going to make a damn bit of difference.

You sort of pointed out an extreme reason - that if we are, as a country, decaying and becoming more soulless (not in a religious sense, I just don't know what other word to use), that does influence our eating habits, probably much more than "food policy" ever will.

Your take on this is very dark. I believe that people have individual power to change their mindsets and circumstances. I just don't believe that other people can make them do so, if they can't find it in themselves. And thus I find discussions of "food policy" among foodies to be a kind of intellectual masturbation some times.

But I think that education can make a difference. Although it's undoubtedly true that it's easier and more affective among the affluent, I believe it can reach all socioeconomic levels.

Several folks in this column have compared poor eating habits to smoking, and I think that's a pretty good comparison.

In 1964, the US Surgeon General's office estimated that approximately 42% of all American adults smoked. Now, it's under 20%.

And I recall when there first was mention of designated drivers. I figured there wasn't a chance in hell of anybody adopting that policy. But now, it seems to have become routine among a great many people.

Our collective progress as a society might be along an unceasingly uphill and winding road filled with potholes, curves and detours but, over time, it does seem like we manage to make improvements.

I do think it's worth worrying about. And I think it can be done. And without resorting to the worst aspects of a "nanny state."

We just have to figure out how.

Edited by Jaymes (log)

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This is not about whether someone knows Brocoli is good for them & how to cook it.. it is ALOT about the current system's carrot & sticks (subsidies etc.,) and growing economic inequality... but it is also ALOT about large swaths of the country losing hope, losing opportunity, losing self awareness... being too low on the Maslow level.

There are plenty of fat people.. the U.S. is the most obese nation in history and the myth that it is poor urban people is just about not admitting reality. My boss is a multi millionaire and is 75 pounds overweight.. not because of lack of education, choice or opportunity... because he is too stressed & unaware to deal with his stress other than comforting with crap food. This stress-comfort eating sindrome is common throughout all economic levels in the society.

The proto-typical skinny white woman eating salads & walking on a tread mill looking onto 5th Avenue is not skinny because she has more knowledge about what to eat (this sub-group often has its own serious nutritional/health issues).. it is because she has goals, opportunity & hope.. 3 things which are becoming increasingly scarce across the country.

That's sort of the point I was trying to make - that those of us who have _____ (fill in the blank) are disconnected from those of us who have not. It's easy for me, someone who doesn't stress eat (and that may be because the things that stress me are, to quote my boyfriend, "first world problems"), sit around proposing solutions and discussion "food policy" like it's going to make a damn bit of difference.

You sort of pointed out an extreme reason - that if we are, as a country, decaying and becoming more soulless (not in a religious sense, I just don't know what other word to use), that does influence our eating habits, probably much more than "food policy" ever will.

Your take on this is very dark. I believe that people have individual power to change their mindsets and circumstances. I just don't believe that other people can make them do so, if they can't find it in themselves. And thus I find discussions of "food policy" among foodies to be a kind of intellectual masturbation some times.

I think that is a perfect analogy... and I am an atheist myself.

I think the culture is morally bankrupt & empty.. while I myself am not religious, and quite happy to not be... I still recognize that the U.S. once had a strong, generally positive & well adapted / successful culture (even if it had its own baggage & short comings).. but it had a system of beliefs & mythology that was cohesive with millenarian roots.. but now there is apathy & aimlessness... the black & white, religiously rooted life has been fully replaced with something meaningful & soulful.. so people are filling the void with consumerism, facile hedonism of all types including food.

There are certainly tangible, policy attributed causes... supply & demand says ceteris paribus if you use subsidies to make processed crap comparably cheaper than whole food.. well you are going to sell comparatively more processed crap, the inherent Post WWII rebound effect was always going to end up rolling back much of the Middle Class gains in Standards of Living that occurred in the 1950s when America had no industrial competitors... but also the way globalization has been structured is bound to create more winners & losers, with greater inequality between winners & losers than was the norm in Pre-Globalization society.

OTOH culture can be used as an effective barrier against economic laws.. but unfortunately the culture piece is also going the opposite direction. The country needs something... I hope that something doesn't have to be the black & white religiosity & vindictiveness towards the Other of the past.. but I think that might even be an improvement over the road the society is going down.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I just finished reading "The Unprejudiced Palate. Classic Thoughts on Food and the Good Life" by Angelo Pellegrini, first published in 1948. I've never bookmarked a book as much as this one, his musings are entirely contemporary.

Many of the dark, decline of society points that we are discussing were on Pellegrini's mind in 1948.

What's the expression, the more things change, the more they stay the same? In a way, the eternalness of these issues is oddly reassuring.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...