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Right to Vote

Right to Vote: Happy Birthday, America…..Now let’s talk about Food as a Campaign Issue

Last week, we celebrated the birthday of the right to vote. Although the first U.S. Constitution (adopted in 1789) did not acknowledge every U.S. adult’s right to vote, the document adopted on July 4, 1776 created the banner that is still unfurled today — the inalienable right for any humans, any time, any place to control our own destinies in a peaceful collective process based on the act of voting.

Not only did the signers of the Declaration of Independence unfurl the banner for all the world to see. They stuck it in the ground with such power that we still feel the reverberations and we still congregate around it. It is the truth of our individual rights combined with the truth of our collective responsibilities.

So, those are nice flowery words. But how do we manifest our best lives on a daily basis in conjunction with others trying to manifest their best lives?

I know no better place to discover the answers than while making group decisions about Food and Food Systems.

Food Vote 2012. One month ago, I posted a pilot election survey for Illinois — Food Vote 2012. Thanks to those of you who filled out the survey.

If you haven’t taken it, there’s plenty of time before the Sept. 15, 2012 deadline.

The goal of the survey is to find out:
Are Congressional candidates are running on “food” as a campaign issue?
If not, can voters motivate their candidates to make food a campaign issue in 2012?
Can we get all 35 candidates in Illinois (for 18 Congressional districts) to make food a campaign issue?
What kind of help do voters need to motivate their candidates to make food an issue by Sept. 15, 2012 — seven weeks before the election?

Link to Illinois Survey: SURVEY LINK Illinois Food Vote 2012

Link to podcast of the Mike Nowak Show (WCPT Radio, June 17, 2012). A 1-hour interview about FoodVote2012 (including some friendly chat about Father’s Day, earwigs, and food scraps, in Mike’s inimitable style).

The early returns from Illinois Food Vote 2012. As of July 10, 2012:

1. Total: 65 responses
.00073% of 8.8 million eligible Illinois voters
2.6% of 2,500 direct survey outreach (to people known to me to be interested in food issues)

2. Geographic spread
24 municipalities from all over state (Carbondale, Champaign, Pekin, Springfield, Chicago, Caledonia — plus some small towns I had to look up)
13 of 18 Congressional Districts
representing only 9 counties (of total 102 counties in Illinois)

3. Candidates running on food platform in this election?
So far, no one has identified a Congressional candidate running on a food platform.
72% did not know if their candidates were running on a food platform
28% said “No”, their candidates are definitely not

4. Voters talking to candidates about food?
Yes 34%
No 68%

5. Voters who are talking to candidates about food seem to do so multiple times:
1 time 23%
2-3 times 29%
4-5 times 29%
6+ times 18%

6. Method of contact. Voters have used many different methods for contacting candidates about food. Of the 10 options mentioned, the most popular were:
Email 83%
Telephone 44%
Social media 22%
Casual meeting 16%

22 people (34%) wrote comments. Here are some of the most practical comments, in terms of helping voters talk to candidates about food issues (plus a few ringers). Highlighting is mine.

Most effective, I believe, is to bring up food issues in public meetings to get candidates to commit. 6/11/2012

I think this initiative — to make food an election campaign issue — is right on target. Asking representatives to state their food policy positions in their campaigns (if they don’t have a food policy position, to take one) seems to make a lot of sense, with all the momentum around food. I look forward to seeing how I can support this. 6/19/2012

interesting how you have chosen to make “Food” and issue, even though it isn’t 6/18/2012

Seems like the economy will be the biggest issue – if you can tie food issues to that – how people will save money, resources, reduce social problems/needs – that might be good. 6/18/2012

Now that the Obama Healthcare Act is in place and the health of the American public is at issue and especially how we are going to pay for all of this, two basic topics are of concern….exercise and food. Based on the documentary, “The Power of Community, How Cuba Survived the Oil Crisis”, the simple answer is and always will be growing local and eating fresh. My plans are to again begin classes on cooking for health and easy tips on solving small health issues. 6/29/20

I live in a part of Chicago with many vacant lots and have helped to start two community gardens. My neighborhood has not been designated as a food desert but food options are limited. I would like to see our governments, state, city, and federal, treat food with the importance it deserves, and make policy decisions that protect our ability to access safe and healthy food. On the national level, I would like to see the USDA publicize the fact that food stamps, also known as SNAP benefits, can be used to purchase seeds and plants for family food production. Many retailers and consumers do not realize this. Food stamp benefits have increased drastically in the recent recession and I would like to see more familes aware of this way to fullt utilize the benefits. $5 worth of seeds can turn into $50 worth of food. On the city level, I would like to see more support for community and home gardens, in particular soil testing for toxics, so that people can utilize the land that all too often now just grows weeds which the city has to pay to mow. I would rather see my tax dollars used for a net benefit than to just see them burned up in a riding mower’s gas tank. 6/20/2012

I think this is great that you are pushing to raise this issue of food. It also needs to be clear that food insecurity is rising especially for those in poverty. Access to fresh local food is a health issue, and changing to a sustainable farming system is critical for USA security. 6/24/2012

I believe that food needs to be a grassroots issue, meaning, the solution comes from the individuals and community themselves and not from any political platform or candidate. 6/11/2012

Most foodies believe they can vote with their fork and don’t understand the need for political engagement. For those who see food as a political issue it does not seem to be a top priority issue and our often more focused on other established issue areas. There is not enough leaders across the state who take on these kind of efforts, most of those involved in food systems work are focused on specific projects. Those leaders that are out there building local food systems want to focus on tangible projects and shy away from politics. The food and farm system is extremely dense and complicated making it hard for average citizens to be able to talk about it within an electoral context beyond vague notions that don’t inherently challenge the structure of industrial agriculture. 6/14/2012

Re-education is needed. It is difficult for them to see the difference between traditional, small operators vs large operators. BTW, How do I know the person runbning this survey is not just a a secret lobbyist for Monsanto?) 6/24/2012

D. Hillman Response: How do you know anything?