A National Food Policy for the 21st Century

Authors: Mark Bittman, Michael Pollan, Ricardo Salvador, Olivier De Schutter

“Thanks to the productivity of our farmers, the United States has led the world in agriculture for generations. But it’s time to recognize that the challenges facing our food system have shifted; we need to do more than produce an abundance of cheap calories. Too many of our children are struggling with obesity and type 2 diabetes, while many adults struggle with chronic preventable diseases linked to diet, costing us more than $500 billion a year. We must commit not just to feeding but to nourishing our citizens, especially our children. We can do this by honoring our great tradition of small family farms, and by building a food system that works with nature while continuing to be productive and profitable. To that end, I’m announcing the creation of a task force reporting directly to me and charged with developing the nation’s first National Food Policy. This policy will be organized around the paramount objective of promoting health — that of our citizens and of the environment — at each link in the food chain, from the farm to the supermarket, to our schools, home tables, and even restaurants. With the development of this policy, we will demonstrate that the American food system can continue to be a model the rest of the world can follow.”

— America’s next president
A scenario for the State of the Union address, January 28, 2017

The Opportunity

The current and future well-being of the nation can be significantly improved by creating a National Food Policy (NFP). Such a policy, if properly conceived and implemented, will result in a healthier population, a reduction in hunger, mitigation of (and adaptation to) climate change, decreases in energy consumption, improved environmental conservation, rural and inner city economic development, a reduction in socioeconomic inequality, a safer and more secure food system, and savings to the federal budget, especially in spending on health care.

How could a single innovation such as the NFP possibly deliver on such a broad spectrum of our major contemporary challenges? Because these various issues are currently addressed through piecemeal and often contradictory approaches, whereas they are interlocking problems that can best be addressed through a unified and coordinated policy focused on their common denominator: the food system.