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by Michael Lavendar, Plate of the Union

For our grandparents, a healthy home cooked meal was an act of simplicity.  Food was personal and exceedingly local – it came from your back yard, your neighbor, or the other side of town.

Today, however, is a different story. Over the past century, our nation’s food system has grown and fallen greatly out of balance.

Instead of focusing on public health, food policy in Washington is dominated by money — prioritizing corporate interests at the expense of our health, the environment, and working families. The good news is that millions of Americans recognize these problems and are motivated to push for real change in our food system.

The Plate of the Union Campaign is delivering these messages – the bad and good – to Presidential candidates during this election.

Launched by three organizations – Food Policy Action, the HEAL Food Alliance, and the Union of Concerned Scientists – the Plate of the Union Campaign is a collaborative effort to raise the voice of the millions of Americans who care about food and farm issues, and how food & farm policies influence our health, environment, and economy.

Together, we’re calling on the next President to commit to five common-sense steps:  

  1. Stand with working families: Commit to ensuring that all Americans have access to healthy, affordable food.
  2. Keep our kids healthy: Stop companies from marketing junk food to kids and end subsidies that support processed junk food.
  3. Support farmers to grow healthy food: Re-Align agricultural supports and policies to reflect the U.S. government’s nutrition recommendations, and expand incentives for fair and sustainable practices.
  4. Protect food and farm workers: End Fair Labor Standards exemptions for farmworkers, raise the minimum wage for all food workers, and eliminate the subminimum wage for restaurant workers.
  5. Keep antibiotics working: Ban the practice of feeding antibiotics to farm animals that are not sick.

Already, tens of thousands of people have signed our petition to presidential candidates, urging them to reform our food system based on these steps.  You can add your name to the petition by signing up here!

Plate of the Union is mobilizing voters in key presidential battleground states — including New Hampshire, Iowa, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Ohio. Later this year, we’ll launch the Plate of the Union food truck, as it begins travelling around the country, making stops at candidate events, debate locations, and campaign headquarters to highlight the importance of and support for food system reform.

We’re also engaging young Americans.  We recently launched our Campus Challenge contest. The Campus Challenge is a competition for students to develop and execute a campus outreach plan to drive engagement around food issues in the 2016 election. Winners will receive funding to execute their plan or for organizing efforts.

Although most presidential candidates have been slow to address the problems within our food system, an overwhelming bipartisan majority of voters want to see change.  A recent national poll conducted by Plate of the Union showed that people are concerned by the food systems impact on the health of children and by unfair low wages for those in the food industry.  There’s strong support for increasing the availability of healthy, affordable food and for federal incentives for sustainable farming practices that protect our environment.

The stakes are far too high for these issues to stay under the radar any longer. 

Interested in learning more about Plate of the Union? Visit www.plateoftheunion.com or contact mlavender@ucsusa.org.