By Christina Dittmer
The Iowa Food Systems Council's has a Food Access and Health Work Group. And that group is unveiling a food policy voter's guide this month. Iowa's food system is central to the state's economy, landscape, culture and history. The Food Access and Health Work Group believes future policy-makers and community leaders should establish platforms on the role of food in Iowa and how they plan to achieve a diverse and just food system that eliminates hunger, increases access to nutritious food, and improves the health of all Iowans, farms and communities.
A state rich in fertile soils and sprawling fields, Iowa still experiences food insecurity at astonishing levels. Almost 400,000 Iowans are food insecure, and many more struggle to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables. Many diet-related chronic diseases today stem from low access to fresh produce and nutritionally dense foods. Although there are many efforts to improve food insecurity and increase availability of fresh fruits and vegetables to low-income Iowans, support is needed from local, state and federal levels to move forward.
The Future of Food in Iowa: A Voter's Guide outlines questions aimed to raise awareness and promote public discussion around the many pertinent issues affecting Iowa's food system. The guide explains issues such as food security, hunger, nutrition, health, food assistance, farming, gardening, processing, farmer's markets, food hubs, food waste and more.
Iowa can become leader in food policy discussions
"This guide is essential for elevating healthy food access and food system issues during the election season. As one of the leading caucus states, Iowa could set the stage for these discussions among congressional and presidential candidates, which could amplify healthy food system issues across the country. This guide will empower voters with questions to help inform their votes," states IFSC president Jason Grimm.
Split into three sections, the voter's guide outlines questions for candidates who are running for local, state, and federal offices. The Food Access and Health Work Group believes policies must be implemented on each of these levels to ensure a healthy, sustainable and equitable food system. These questions will build awareness and help prepare the public sector for successful enactment of food system policy.
Cory Berkenes, director of the Iowa Food Bank Association and member of the Food Access and Health Work Group's leadership team acknowledges, "The best way to fight hunger is through a public-private partnership; once we are able to establish sustained support from the public sector, we will then have the necessary foundation in place to tackle this issue in a strategic and comprehensive manner."
Guide has questions for all candidates
This voter's guide can be used to raise food system issues at debates, forums and town-hall meetings to help voters discover their candidate's "recipe" for the future of food in Iowa. With this information, citizens can hold candidates accountable to improving food policies that eliminate food insecurity and improve health in Iowa. Candidates running in a general, primary, city or school election can be found online at sos.iowa.gov/elections/candidates.
About the Food Access and Health Work Group: Launched in March 2010 the Food Access and Health Work Group is a statewide network of 600 food and nutrition assistance program administrators, emergency food system providers, public health professionals, community-based organizers and food system stakeholders focused on cultivating a diverse and just food system to eliminates hunger, increase access to nutritious food and improve the health of all Iowans. For information visit www.cultivateiowa.org.
About the Iowa Food Systems Council: IFSC is an emerging member-based nonprofit organization whose charge is to monitor Iowa's food and health landscape, and to encourage and coordinate connections between food system leaders and decision makers. The Council also identifies policies, programs and research that cultivate a food system that builds healthier Iowans, communities, economies and the environment. For further information, visit the IFSC website.
Christina Dittmer is a Wallaces Farmer intern.