Monday’s final presidential debate between Governor Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama in Boca Raton, Fla. will focus on foreign policy.
But policymakers and researchers gathered at a University of Missouri food insecurity conference hope the candidates will make some time on the agenda for food and farm policy.
“It’s hard to imagine that 80 percent of the Farm Bill is SNAP benefits, and so much of what the two candidates are talking about right now are those people who receive SNAP [Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program] benefits,” said LaDonna Redmond, Senior Program Associate for the Food and Justice program at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy in Minneapolis, Minn. “Yet they don’t talk about those folks and President Obama is called ‘The Food Stamp President.’”
Redmond was in Columbia, Mo. to speak at a conference called “Food Insecurity: Assessing Disparities, Consequences and Policies,” last week. Conference discussions revolved around improving access to fresh, healthy affordable produce; strategies for changing negative health outcomes of not having enough food -- like obesity and depression; and the effectiveness of policies meant to improve food security, like SNAP, or the food stamps program.
Redmond said these topics need to be discussed on the federal level alongside issues like unemployment and poverty.
“So it’s almost like an oxymoron that they could talk about middle class folk and talk about growing the economy from the middle out and talking about jobs but not really talk about what’s really at stake, which is whether people eat or not.”
Beth Low, a former Mo. representative and the director of the Greater Kansas City Food Policy Coalition, argued that the presidential candidates are talking about food policy in the debates, they just don’t know it.
“They have been discussing national security, workforce readiness, educational outcomes and achievement and competing in the world marketplace as a nation. And those are all things that relate very directly to the food system…” Low said. “When we talk about healthcare costs spiraling out of control, we are in fact talking about the results of a food system and of food policies that are broken.”
More than 200 students, researchers and policymakers attended the University of Missouri conference, which ran from Wednesday night through Friday afternoon.