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by Dr. Susan Rubin and Linda Viertel, chapter board members of Slow Food Westchester

When it comes to our food system, everyone has a different wake up call. For Congresswoman Nita Lowey, it was reading about ammonia use in ground beef in the New York Times. A grandmother of eight and former healthy food advocate during her own children’s early years, Mrs. Lowey was horrified. She knew she must take further action.

As she rounded up food and health experts in the county to learn more, she called upon Slow Food Westchester to be part of the conversation. Mrs. Lowey had attended our Slow Food Eat-In on Labor Day at the Washington Irving School in Tarrytown along with 200 local residents. That event impressed her with our group’s ability to create community around advocating for better food in schools. Slow Food has done a great job in framing the conversation about food that is good, clean and fair.

Our meeting with Mrs. Lowey went well. We handed her more information on Slow Food’s mission and Slow Food’s national policy platform for the Child Nutrition Promotion and School Lunch Protection Act. We also discussed the value of a better school lunch program in conjunction with the health care issues she is facing in Congress. We used the opportunity to hand her a booklet filled with letters written by kids and parents about school lunch. Reading these letters and hearing the stories of families impacted her in a way that no statistic on children’s health could. Congresswoman Lowey is now a passionate advocate for a better food system.

Over 20 years ago, Wendell Berry said, “Eating is an agricultural act.” It’s more true today than it ever was. But today, thanks to Michael Pollan and others, we also know that eating is a political act and that “we vote with our forks every day.” These days, when both personal and planetary health are on the line, it’s up to all of us to go beyond the end of our forks and roll up our sleeves to get involved. Writing a letter to your Congressional representative can be a great start to a deeper connection to your own government that will help result in real change for our nation’s food policy.

Both food and democracy work best when we are not just spectators but active participants.