Who’s a FOOD Candidate? How can we tell?

Since going live on August 14, 2012, Food Vote 2012: National U.S. Survey has received a wealth of responses, in number, variety, and degree of commentary. This has encouraged me to start blogging sooner rather than later, in the interests of sharing useful information.

A. It is not too late to talk to your Congressional candidates about FOOD. The general election (Nov. 6) is still 2.5 months away. In fact there are still 9 primaries to go:

Wyoming, August 21
Alaska, August 28
Arizona, August 28
Vermont, August 28
Massachusetts, September 6
Delaware, September 11
New Hampshire, September 11
Rhode Island, September 11
Louisiana, November 6

If you have not yet taken the survey, here is the link:
Food Vote 2012: National U.S. Survey

B. Some initial survey data as of August 20, 2012
Total # of responses: 91
# of States: 22
# of Congressional Food candidates suggested: 9
# of Congressional Food candidates actually identified: 1 (after vetting for candidacy, jurisdiction, and food plank)

Top collective actions favored for 2012:
84 % favor
A “Community Food and Farm Bill” empowering and funding food councils at local, regional, and state levels

61 % favor
Right to habitat, food, water, healthcare, education, etc.: Expand Bill of Rights to include more concrete language regarding “general welfare” or “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”

68% favor
Help funders and government officials understand why “community food and farm economies” is a high-impact funding area that can decrease or eliminate most other funding needs

C. How to tell if your Congressional candidates are FOOD candidates
My friends, neighbors, and family are still trying to understand my food system work. Even after 7 years, I’m still trying to explain. Mostly I think this is because food system work is new to everyone, so I’m always happy to try another explanation. Here goes.

Some weeks ago, when I shared plans for my national survey, my 80-year old uncle sent me the following email:

“How does a “Food Candidate” differ from his/her opponent?

“Like most people, we take our food supply for granted, though we complain about increased prices. We don’t have shortages. There are no candidates offering new ways to grow, manage supplies of or distribute food. I don’t see there being food issues in the upcoming election. Maybe things are different there [in Illinois] than here [in California].

“It seems to me, the main issues all over the country have to do with jobs, gridlock in government, the worldwide economic depression, etc. I think most election battles will be over those issues. I hope you can tell me what I’m missing in all this.”

Food Candidate Analysis (attachment). Attached is the answer that I will be sending to my Uncle Ray and Aunt Louise. It’s an analysis of the websites of 9 Congressional candidates vis-a-vis a FOOD platform. Analysis includes:
— Description of 9 candidate sample (Food Vote 2012 + Food Day Advisory Committee)
— Definition of FOOD Candidate
— Candidates’ website content
— Analysis: FOOD Candidate?

D. Are there any FOOD candidates in the 2012 Congressional election?

The good news is yes. The bad news is, “only one” so far.

If you don’t have time to read my entire analysis, check out Congressman Earl Blumenauer’s Food and Farm Bill of Rights. So far, Cong. Blumenauer is the only Congressional candidate that I would call a FOOD Candidate. I think his Bill of Rights is worth sharing widely, discussing, and adapting to any Congressional district. So far it’s the only comprehensive community-based food and farm campaign platform that I’ve seen. I believe It has the ability to start a productive conversation — in any district, in any jurisdiction.

Here’s the link to Cong. Blumenauer’s Food and Farm Bill of Rights

E. Other FOOD candidates running for Congress in 2012?
Let me know through the survey:
Food Vote 2012: National U.S. Survey

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.