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“Vote Food 2016”: Food Policy Experts Explore the Issues

June 8, 2016 — Think ahead to November 2016 — and imagine that the new president of the United States wants to create a new office of the “national food czar.” After all, there are currently 15 U.S. federal agencies responsible for food regulation. What changes should be made to the food regulation system, and what policy initiatives should be launched to ensure public health and food safety?

Those were the opening questions at “Vote Food 2016: Better Food, Better Health,” hosted by the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown Law on June 3. Professor David Vladeck, who served as the director of the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection from 2009 through 2012, led an all-star lineup of food policy experts including Donna Shalala, former secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Daniel Glickman, former head of the U.S. Department of Agriculture; Margaret Hamburg, former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration; and Sonia Angell, deputy commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

While they advised against trying to reorganize the federal government — and agreed that a “food czar” was generally a bad idea — the experts had plenty of recommendations to address the challenges of food safety, quality, nutrition, labeling, production and more.

 “By the end of [the president’s] first term, there should not be one American that goes hungry…,” Shalala said. “I would begin by dealing with a few food insecurity issues; whether it’s SNAP or WIC or the Earned Income Tax Credit, I would eliminate food insecurity in the United States for all time by putting some system in place.”

In her keynote address, Angell explored some of the ways that state and local innovations in the food space are helping to create workable models nationwide. “If we are going to care about health,” Angell said, “we have to care about food.”

No farms, no food

Adjunct Professor Scott Faber, O’Neill Institute Associate Sarah Roache, and O’Neill Institute Associate Aliza Glasner led panels on antibiotic use in farming, sugar and obesity, and access to nutrition respectively (Glasner also organized the event).

Doug O'Brien of the White House Domestic Policy Council reflected on the significant attention that food issues have gained during the Obama Administration and expressed the hope that this legacy will continue to flourish. 

 “[Food] is obviously one of the most basic parts of our lives…one of our biggest personal expenditures, one of the biggest parts of our economy, and one of the biggest sources of jobs in America,” said Professor from Practice Timothy Westmoreland, a senior scholar at the O’Neill Institute who introduced the event. “And increasingly, it is recognized as one of the biggest components of our public and personal health.”

A full list of participants and panelists is available here.

A webcast is available here.

 

 

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