Food Vote 2012: National U.S. Survey goes live

For 60+ years, U.S. food policy has been made by rural legislators and other small cohorts (too numerous to mention), disconnected from each other, from consumers, and from the frontlines of our food system — mothers, farmers, food chain workers, and other caretakers of land and people.

Food as a Campaign Issue. In my entire life (61 years), I do not think that FOOD has ever been a national campaign issue. Although FOOD is a daily need and our most complicated need (variety, logistics, time to grow, prepare, etc.) on a meal-to-meal basis, election websites do not list FOOD in their long lists of campaign issues in the 2012 election. In terms of collective and personal time, materials, money, land and room, infrastructure, equipment, the food and farm system takes up the largest chunk of all our resources combined. In other words, the food and farm economy is THE central organizing system for healthy human cultures.

The genius of the community food security movement is that it has identified FOOD as the missing piece of our collective discussions and decision-making, and that it is quickly identifying methods and institutions to put ALL people into one real conversation about one real and universal need — FOOD.

The genius of democratic theory (compared to our ineffective representative republic) is that it also proposes a similar template for adult self-governance: One conversation and one decision-making table, where everyone has standing, everyone has a voice, and everyone has an act of power — a vote.

FOOD VOTE 2012: National U.S. Survey
In the interests of using our Food voices, learning how to implement participatory democracy, and adding to the current collective food conversation, I offer a national survey, Food Vote 2012.

SURVEY BACKGROUND. The Food Vote 2012 survey has been in preparation since April 2012. On June 10, 2012, a pilot survey went live in Illinois, my home state. Six weeks later, I was ready to go live with the national survey when the announcement was made (on August 6) about the imminent closing of the Community Food Security Coalition. In the context of this major shift in the North American community food system landscape, I have added some questions that may be useful to the movement as a whole, going forward (and that have improved the survey, I think). (Because policy is ultimately about standing in a particular jurisdiction, I have chosen to concentrate this survey of U.S. policy and U.S. actions.)

SURVEY CONTENT. The National Food Vote 2012 Survey seeks to highlight current opportunities for collective, leveraged action around FOOD. Survey questions are organized around 3 categories of opportunities:
1. 2012 Election, especially the U.S. House of Representatives: There are still 8 state primaries to go and there is still plenty of time to talk to candidates about FOOD issues.
2. High-leverage policies that can address deep FOOD system issues: (a) Federal policies, and (b) Constitutional amendments
3. Other collective action: Demonstrations, teach-ins (funders, media), finding a replacement umbrella organization for CFSC (or re-organizing CFSC), participating in Food Day, webinars on banking, law-making, participatory budgeting, etc.

1. Link to National Food Vote 2012 Survey:
2. Open to any U.S. resident, voters and non-voters.
3. Survey will take 10-20 minutes of your time, depending on how much personal comment you want to share (There is lots of space for additional alternatives.)
4. Food Vote 2012 survey will remain live through November 6, 2012 (and possibly beyond)
5. Results will be shared through a weekly blog.
6. Illinois residents who took my pilot survey may want to take this national survey because of the added questions.

Please share this survey with anyone in your U.S. networks — friends, neighbors, family, colleagues.

How does an Issue become a Campaign Issue?

Illinois Candidates’ Issues and National Issue Lists

How DOES an issue become a campaign issue? I’m still trying to find out. This blog only asks the question and includes some primary data about the current Congressional campaign issues.

It is not too late to make Food a campaign issue in Illinois in 2012. Illinois residents can now take the NATIONAL Food Vote 2012 Survey, a new and improved version of the Illinois pilot.

SURVEY LINK: Food Vote 2012: National U.S. Survey

This blogpost contains:

1. Survey Responses Update
2. Analysis: Candidates Websites and Issues
3. Questions about National Issues Lists


Currently the Illinois Food Vote 2012 survey has received no information from 4 of our Illinois Congressional districts (18 in total, based on the redistricting for this election). The four districts (with major cities and towns) are:

Cong. District #2: Kankakee, Park Forest, Dolton
(Chicago’s far south suburbs to Indiana line), south to Chebanse, west to Reddick)
Cong. District #3: Romeoville, Lockport, Burbank, Oak Lawn
(southwest from Chicago, southwest suburbs to Fairmont)
Cong. District #15: Effingham, Danville, Charleston, Lawrenceville
(most of the southeast quarter of Illinois)
Cong. District #17: Freeport, Rockford, Quad Cities, Galesburg, Peoria, Pekin
(much of Illinois northeast corner)

If you are not sure which district you are in, check out this website which shows the 18 individual districts overlaid on an Illinois map. This is a Will County website, but it’s the best, most user-friendly display of ALL 18 districts.

2. Candidates’ Websites and Issues

There are 34 candidates running for the 18 seats (1 dropped out for health reasons in May).

Of those 34 candidates, 4 are running unopposed (Districts 1 – Rush, 4 – Gutierrez, and 7 – D. Davis, 12 – Plummer). Two districts (8 and 17) have 3-way races.

Websites. Of the 34 candidates, 4 do not have campaign websites (including the 3 incumbents running unopposed, Rush, Gutierrez, D. Davis). The fourth is an independent challenger in Dist. 8 (Canfield).

Issue List. Of the 30 candidates with campaign websites, 21 currently post a list of their priority campaign issues. 9 do not, including 3 incumbents who, presumably, are running on their records and popularity (Dist. 6, 9, 18).

Food not on Issue Lists. Of the 21 candidates who currently have a list of issues, none list Food. Here is a cursory analysis of some issues that candidates do list that might or might not be related to Food and how many candidates list such issues. I have not had time to analyze their statements about individual issues. (Issue labels are taken directly from candidates’ websites.)

Agriculture/Energy and Agriculture/Agriculture and Rural Development: 4
Health Care/Health Care Reform/Better Health Care: 17
Economy/Jobs: 21
Environment/Energy & Environment/Energy, Gas & Environment: 10


To put things in perspective, copied below are two lists of national issues of comparable length (20 issues and 24 issues). One list is from a national election watch website (On the Issues). The other list is the new American Grants and Loans Catalog, containing 2800 “financial programs, subsidies, scholarships, grants, and loans” offered by the US federal government.

Can you tell which list is which?
Can you explain the disconnect between campaign issues and federal government programs?
Can you explain the disconnect between Illinois candidates’ issues and the programs that some (incumbents) have helped to put in place, presumably to address real needs by real people in real communities?

List #1
Business and Commerce
Community Development
Consumer Protection
Cultural Affairs
Disaster Prevention and Relief
Employment, Labor and Training
Environmental Quality
Food and Nutrition
Income Security and Social Services
Information and Statistics
Law, Justice, and Legal Services
Natural Resources
Regional Development
Science and Technology

List #2
Budget & economy
Civil Rights
Energy & Oil
Families & Children
Foreign Policy
Free Trade
Government Reform
Gun Control
Health Care
Homeland Security
Infrastructure & Technology
Principles & Values
Social Security
Tax Reform
War & Peace
Welfare and Poverty