MARION NESTLE is professor of nutrition, food studies, and public health, emerita, at New York University, and the author of the forthcoming Let’s Ask Marion: What You Need to Know about the Politics of Food, Nutrition, and Health.
The problems in food systems are particularly evident in meatpacking plants as viral epicenters, staffed by low wage, largely minority and immigrant employees often without sick leave or health care benefits, now considered essential and forced to work by government invocation of the Defense Emergency Act. Problems are also evident in farmers’ destruction of animals, eggs, milk, potatoes, and other vegetables, while food banks are overwhelmed by demands for food that they cannot meet. These situations call for nothing less than major reform of our food system to make it more resilient and sustainable. This means decentralization, regionalization, and localization of food production, and implementation of policies to link food production to public health and environmental protection.
What kinds of policies? How about a universal basic income, universal school meals, and federal subsidies for local and regional small- and mid-size producers, and fair wages (with benefits) for all those essential workers. Our country has plenty of money to do this; what’s lacking is political will. How do we get political will? Advocate! Vote! Start now!