As health professionals we, the undersigned, implore Congress and the White House to pass a healthy Farm Bill. Every five years, the $300 billion Farm Bill lays a foundation for how healthy Americans will be. It creates the “default” conditions for what we eat and what foods America produces. Its largest slice, the Nutrition Title, governs foods bought and eaten by lower-income Americans receiving food assistance. More than a Farm Bill, we urge a healthy “Food Bill”—a critical step for Americans on the path to healthier eating, living and food production.
Farming takes place within a broader, integrated ecosystem. A healthy food system must also be sustainable—one that promotes the health of individuals in addition to the long-term economic health of communities and farmers, and the health of the environment and future generations.
A Healthy Farm Bill reflects principles for a healthy, sustainable food system*, one that is:
Healthy. Accounts for health impacts across the entire lifecycle of how food is produced, processed, packaged, labeled, distributed, marketed, consumed and disposed. A food system that supports the physical and mental health of all farmers, workers and eaters.
Sustainable. Conserves, protects, and regenerates natural resources, landscapes and biodiversity. Meets current food and nutrition needs without compromising the ability of the system to meet the needs of future generations.
Resilient. Thrives in the face of challenges, such as an unpredictable climate, increased pest resistance, and declining and increasingly expensive supplies of water and energy.
Fair. Provides equitable access to food that is affordable, healthy and culturally appropriate, but that also supports just communities, including fair conditions for all farmers, workers and eaters.
Diverse. Utilizes a variety of production and practices across the food system, and at diverse scales, from local and regional, to national and global. Geographically diverse in that it reflects true geographic differences in natural resources, climate, customs and heritage. Supports cultural diversity and provides a diversity of health-promoting food choices for all.
Economically Balanced. Provides economic opportunity that is balanced across the nation’s geographic regions, and at different scales of activity, from local to global, for a diverse range of food system participants. Affords farmers and workers in all sectors of the system a living wage.
Transparent. Farmers, workers and eaters are empowered to actively participate in decision-making across all parts of the food system, and share in opportunities to gain an understanding of how their food is produced, transformed, distributed, marketed, consumed and disposed.
* Principles of the Healthy, Sustainable Food System (American Public Health Association, American Dietetic Association, American Planning Association and American Nurses Association) December 2010. Only individuals or organizations signing the Charter should be construed as endorsing it. Healthy Food Action is a project of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.