POLITICS AND THE PLATE
Legislators get food grades.
WRITTEN BY PAUL TOWERS
ILLUSTRATION BY LILY THERENS
As food and farming issues have garnered more attention in Sacramento, so has the interest in the issues grown inside the Capitol. From issues of farmworker overtime pay to bee protections and public seed exchanges to nutrition benefits incentives, food-focused legislation in the last session increasingly covered a broad terrain. One effort is trying to make sense of the sometimes fierce debates around the food system, as well as on how our elected officials vote on them.
The report — released by the California Food Policy Council, its 27 member food policy groups including the Sacramento Food Policy Council and Roots of Change — is the first effort to rank and publish a record of state legislators based on their performances on key food and farming legislation in 2016. The report also lifts up four areas of major progress in California: ecological farming, healthy food access, economic viability for local food and small producers, and food-chain worker advancement.
Despite uncertainty and concerns surrounding federal election results and a new administration, advocates are upbeat about the results of legislation in the state capitol.
“Sacramento is a beacon of hope, advancing socially just and environmentally sound food and farming policy,” says chef Brenda Ruiz, one of the report’s authors, president of the Sacramento Food Policy Council, and a board member of the California Food Policy Council.
Advocates celebrated the release of the report at Mulvaney’s B&L with four legislative champions, including outgoing Davis-based Sen. Lois Wolk. Wolk, who voted for good food and farming bills 100 percent of the time, led the call for creating a healthy soils program in California and brought attention to the role agriculture can play in addressing climate change.
Returning Assemblymember Kevin McCarty, who represents the cities of Sacramento and West Sacramento, was the only other regional member to receive a 100 percent score.
“In 2012, as a city councilmember, I was proud to support the first resolution declaring Sacramento America’s farm-to-fork capital. Now as an assemblymember, I am continuing efforts to ensure farming and food sustainability and proud to joint author AB-1066, which provides overtime to farmworkers.” he said in a statement. “
Legislators and advocates alike aren’t resting on their laurels, setting sights even higher in the coming year.
“We’ve long heard that food is a great unifier since we all need to eat,” Ruiz adds. “For the 2017 session, we know food and farming issues are not only common sense, but opportunities to build common ground.”
Paul Towers is a frequent contributor to GroundTruth and a leader of the Sacramento Food Policy Council, serves as the organizing director and policy advocate at Pesticide Action Network, and enjoys growing and cooking food from his garden with his children.