As I have stated elsewhere on this website and on my last post, I started Eat the Vote, back in June because I was concerned none of the existing food organizations in the so-called food movement where doing enough to elevate the political conversation around food topics. The biggest manifestation of this worry was the near monopoly web based petitions had on food systems advocacy. As I said before, I was motivated by Mark Bittman's Op-Ed voicing a similar frustration.
Two weeks ago, I received an e-mail from Food Policy Action introducing their new collaboration Plate of the Union. I fully admit, I was really excited to read the following sentence:
"...we have an opportunity change that in 2016. Reforming our food system must be a top priority in the upcoming presidential campaign -- and we need your help."
Quickly, though, my skepticism returned as I visited the Plate of the Union website and was greeted by that symbolic and in my opinion mostly hollow political action: a web based petition. I truly want to believe a better funded, better organized group lead by a charismatic and inspiring figure like Chef Tom Colicchio is doing the important work of holding politicians feet to the fire by building a mass movement of food aware, politically active citizenry beyond the use of petitions.
Holding onto my hope, I scrolled down and found mention of an Activist Tool Kit that promises to help you "build the movement for change." We are now over 2 weeks from the e-mail and still no Tool Kit, but I am still optimistic about these developments especially after hearing the head of the Union of Concerned Scientist talk about the campaign at the Yale Food Symposium.
Since Food Policy Action and The Union of Concerned Scientist, two organizations I admire, are stepping up I am shifting gears with Eat the Vote. I am not at a place in my life or career to be leading this charge, but along with all of you I am going to do my best to support FPA and UCS with the Plate of the Union campaign.
So what does that mean for Eat the Vote? I still believe the food movement needs to be more political and that goes beyond the presidential campaign. A recent poll found that
Those are just a few findings, I encourage you to read the summary linked above. What strikes me is that voters care about food and not just one aspect of our food system, but seemingly all of it including affordability, nutrition, access, farm and environmental sustainability to name a few highlights.
Therefore, as I throw my support behind Plate of the Union, I will maintain Eat the Vote as a place like-minded people. concerned about food can gather and hold our fellow activist accountable as well as ensure the momentum continues beyond the presidential campaign. One lesson I think we can learn from President Obama's time in office is that electing someone into the presidency can make a huge impact, but as the debate over gun control has illustrated Congress, lobbyist and the electorate all have their role to play in either promoting or preventing policies. I envision Eat the Vote along with organizations like Food Policy Action building a movement that keeps food at the forefront of American politics throughout the year and not just campaign season.
So stay tuned. I plan to write about the next stage of Eat the Vote within the next 2 weeks. In the mean time go sign Plate of the Union's petition (www.plateoftheunion.com). (Yes, I know I started this post being harsh on the petition tactic, but if the petition is step one toward something bigger and better that leads to changing the conversation about food, I say sign it and share it!)