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No Chinese Menu In the Voting Booth. Streamlining Voter & Candidate Thinking — FOOD is THE issue

Food Vote 2012: National U.S. Survey
Survey of community food and farm system leaders and other U.S. residents
Aug. 14 – Nov. 6, 2012

On a personal level, the act of voting — deciding one’s representative for the next 2 years (or 4 years or 6 years) — is not always satisfying or straightforward. We do not often find candidates whose positions match our own on every issue.

Nor are ballots arranged like a Chinese menu, where we can vote on a different candidate for each issue — one from Column A (e.g., jobs), one from Column B (e.g., international relations), and one from Column C (e.g., education). Nor would it be desirable or logistically feasible to have multiple representatives sharing a single Congressional seat.

This is to highlight the fact that the voting act is by definition a Yes or a No. In binary computer language, a 1 or a Zero. Representative democracy causes us to reduce a complex decision to a momentary “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” and is binding for 2, 4 or 6 years.

Voters and candidates alike have developed strategies to help voters turn a set of multi-faceted, long-term decisions into a simple Yes or No at the moment they enter the voting booth. So how do we make the best decision when we enter the voting booth?

FOOD streamlines a voter’s thought process. This is the question that in 2005 propelled this voter (at the age of 54) to start working on “local food systems” and “food policy”. Focusing on FOOD streamlined my thinking about every other issue, both in my personal life and my community life.

My co-founding members of the Evanston Food Council saw that all of our other community work was connected to the FOOD system. Our need to eat, every day, for survival and life-affirming pleasure, is the most time-consuming, resource-consuming, and most attention-consuming need that humans (and other life forms) have. FOOD is the organizing principle of our economy, society, and civilization. More than any other human activity, our need to eat (and to feed those in our care) organizes our daily lives.

Like many others around the country, many of us in Evanston, Illinois had been working on many different aspects of community resiliency for many years — living wages, health care, natural resource conservation, housing, education, family support, jobs, etc., etc. — both on a programmatic level and on policy levels. And like many others around the country, founders of the Evanston Food Council saw that on a policy level, solving for FOOD was solving for almost every other issue that we had been working on throughout our lives.

We saw a way to streamline our thinking. Some of us started to help our legislative representatives (and candidates) streamline theirs.

Has FOOD streamlined candidates’ thinking? Seven years later (and knowing that many of my colleagues had been working on FOOD issues at least twice that long), I wanted to find out if this streamlining thought process had affected the political process — specifically, in the races for seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. This is why I created the Food Vote 2012 survey, to find Congressional candidates who understand that FOOD underpins every other aspect of human life.

More specifically, I am seeking candidates who are actively running on a FOOD platform because I believe that they will be likely to promote FOOD justice, FOOD sovereignty, community FOOD and farm systems, FOOD system sustainability and resiliency, and FOOD peace with all humans and non-humans.

Has FOOD streamlined the thinking of all food system practitioners? Along the way, I am also seeking the community food and farm advocates and practitioners who understand their work in this leveraged manner. So, my survey asked the following questions:

QUESTION #5. Are your FOOD concerns so strong that a candidate’s FOOD-related campaign promise might be the deciding factor when you cast your vote on November 6?

QUESTION #6. If yes, what FOOD campaign promise would earn your vote on November 6, no matter who the candidate or what the other issues?

Some detailed analysis of the answers received so far is included below,

Thanks again to those who responded in such detail and with such passion.

You can still participate in the survey, through election day — November 6, 2012:

Food Vote 2012: National U.S. Survey



Total # of responses: 122

# of States Responding: 27 + Washington, DC

No responses yet from: Alabama Alaska Arkansas Delaware Georgia Kansas Kentucky Maine Michigan Mississippi Nebraska Nevada New Hampshire New Jersey North Carolina Oklahoma Rhode Island South Carolina South Dakota Tennessee Texas Vermont Wyoming

# of Congressional Food candidates identified and vetted: 1
(Cong. Earl Blumenauer – Oregon)



QUESTION #5. Are your FOOD concerns so strong that a candidate’s FOOD-related campaign promise might be the deciding factor when you cast your vote on November 6?

Yes 74%
No 26%

QUESTION #6. If yes, what FOOD campaign promise would earn your vote on November 6, no matter who the candidate or what the other issues?

68 people answered this question. In Survey Monkey’s “text analysis” these are the top six words (phrases) that were mentioned:

Farm 20
Food System 17
GMOs 15
Healthy 10
School 10
Communities 10

COMMENTS RECEIVED. Here are some of the representative and unique comments sent in by respondents. (Highlighting is mine.)

Massachusetts. “I would be very likely to vote for a candidate who would work to support food systems in a real and effective way. Who would advocate for changes in institutional policy that would create systemic change on multiple levels i.e. promoting farm to school in a way that would create new markets for farmers, expand opportunities for food service to prepare wholesome food, and create educational opportunities to engage children on healthy food issues.”

New York. “Putting more control of the food system and food economy back in local communities for good jobs, good neighbors, and good health.”

Illinois. “The support of small farms engaged in food production, beginning and minority farmers, and local food – including value added products, with not only legislation but also funding tied to such support. In addition I feel it is essential to make available resources to augment consumer education, as well as the education of farmers forming a partnership to assist in their success.”

New York. “Virtually any mention of building community-based food systems that included strengthening regional food systems, supporting a stable base of small and mid-sized farms that use sustainable practices, increasing access to healthy food choices, supporting food and ag-related businesses that create jobs in our communities and promoting local, state and federal policies that support those things, would probably get my vote.”

Washington. “GMO labeling, 50 year farm bill, end corporate subsidies.”

Maryland. “They would push for a carbon tax, which would help mitigate climate chaos, which represents the greatest peril to our future food security. They would not allow food assistance programs to be cut, but would also work to make them obsolete by helping communities create more food self-reliance.”

Minnesota. “Something about making food a topic of community and political discussion and debate. Knowledge of food justice issues and acknowledgement of the global implications and inter-relatedness. A debate about “green” energy and the problematic conflicts of using food, corn, as fuel, ethanol. This is already affecting people and the meat industry by raising the price of corn.”