The 99 strategies contained in the Minnesota Food Charter include myriad federal policy recommendations—spanning seed to table, research to education, technology to taxation. Indeed, the simple reality is many changes to our food systems can only occur at the federal level, with the federal government playing a major role to guide the evolution of the U.S. food system toward health and prosperity of all communities.
Federal policies can support access to safe, affordable, healthy food for all, while boosting the productivity and profitability of food- and farm-related enterprises. These policies can develop in many ways: congressional action, judicial decisions, agency priorities and directives, and executive action. During the current administration’s tenure, numerous policies have increased support for farmers and related businesses growing healthy food for nearby markets—ensuring healthier options for limited-resource households, schools and childcare environments, while creating new markets for the private sector around more and more healthy options.
As we look ahead to future federally-focused Food Charter initiatives, let’s revisit recent federal policies that have moved the dial on increasing access to healthy food and supporting food and farm enterprises:
Household food insecurity across the U.S. has substantially decreased, thanks to increases in support and extensions for eligibility to federal food benefits programs.
Research demonstrates that babies who are breastfed are far less likely to become overweight or obese as children and adults. The Affordable Care Act requires health plans to cover breastfeeding support and supplies.
The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act made substantial changes to what kinds of foods children eat at school, after school programs, and in childcare settings by:
- Increasing food budgets available to schools, out of school programs, and child care providers
- Improving the nutritional quality of food that kids are served in these settings
- Increasing the number of children eligible for free and reduced school meals
- Supporting relationships between school food services and farmers
- Allocating resources to establish school gardens
This legislation also provided support for breastfeeding and purchasing fresh produce through WIC programs.
Growing Food and Farm Enterprises
The USDA increased its allocations of grant funding and other investments to support the growth and development of regional food production, including support for farmers markets, grants for farmers raising healthy foods for nearby markets, and funding to spur growth in urban agriculture.
Antibiotic Use in Animal Agriculture
The FDA issued a new policy on antibiotic use in food animal production. Established to address growing antibiotic resistance, these guidelines spurred a dramatic reduction of antibiotic use in animal agriculture.
These examples reflect just a few of the efforts the federal government has made to improve access to safe, affordable, and healthy food for all, resonating with many federally-focused Food Charter strategies.
The federal government has also acted on food labeling, food safety, federal requirements on agricultural practices that impact small farmers, and continues to work on regulation and certification requirements for organic, sustainable, and conventional agriculture—issues which are hotly contested by diverse stakeholder and affinity groups.
While there is much more work to be done at the federal level to fulfill all the federally-focused Food Charter strategies, it’s important to take a time out to celebrate progress!