Good morning! It’s caucus day in Iowa and our first item actually considers presidential politics. On the menu:


Editorial: Why don’t the presidential candidates talk about food? The UC Food Observer has been wondering the same thing. So I was delighted to see this editorial in the Des Moines Register. It suggests this:

“What we eat and how it’s produced are not jokes. These questions involve many of the nation’s major issues — including health care costs and quality, the federal debt, pollution, jobs and immigration — and they require leadership on the presidential level.”

The piece goes on to summarize research recently done via focus groups in three American cities as well as some nationwide polling. A quick summary? Americans – across party lines – are concerned about many (and diverse) aspects of the food system, including the affordability of healthy food, childhood nutrition and health, subsidies, sustainability and worker equity. Why isn’t this concern translating into more information from candidates about how they’d tackle these vital issues? Readers have an opportunity to learn about The Plate of the Union Initiative, a campaign mounted by a group of organizations interested in sparking conversation…and change.

This effort reminds me in some ways of the work done by garden activist Roger Doiron (Kitchen Gardeners International) as the nation prepared to elect a president in 2008. Read more about the grassroots Eat the View campaign launched by Roger and the organization he leads in this interview. The goal? A kitchen garden at the White House. The rest is history.


More politics: for more than a million SNAP (food stamp) recipients, the clock is ticking. Unemployed adults in 22 states have “three months to find a job or lose their food assistance. “SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly called “food stamps”) has historically been linked with employment. But that requirement was waived in parts of the country when the Great Recession hit. With an improving economy, that’s changing. Camila Domonoske for NPR The Two-Way.


ICYMI, a UC Food Observer interview with Elliott Campbell, University of California researcher, about the potential of local food. There was a great deal of buzz last spring when a farmland mapping project by a UC Merced professor Elliott Campbell indicated that “most areas of the country could feed between 80 percent and 100 percent of their populations with food grown or raised within 50 miles.” He told me this:

“A really powerful message that seemed obvious to me is that a chunk of the environmental sustainability community has dismissed local food as a distraction, yet leans heavily on the idea that we need to eat more plants. It’s possible that this movement that has been dismissed by some might contain a seed for getting us through a difficult place and closer to sustainability.”  


Campbell’s research study – “The Large Potential of Local Croplands to Meet Food Demand in the United States” – appeared as the cover story of Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, the journal of the Ecological Society of America (the largest organization of professional ecologists, with a membership of more than 10,000 scientists). The study immediately generated comment, including positive accolades from author and influencer Michael Pollan (also a UC professor). Many have noted the importance of the study in filling a research gap about local food. Read the interview with Campbell.

Editor’s Note: Campbell’s work was funded in part by the UC Global Food Initiative, which seeks to harness the university’s resources to address one of the most pressing issues of our time: how to sustainably and nutritiously feed a growing world population. I’m headed up to Oakland to meet with a large group of folks from around the UC system who are working on various and vital issues relating to the food system. I can’t wait to hear more about their work. Stay tuned.


Have a great day!