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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

CUNY: Food Justice in the Trump Age

Drs. Nevin Cohen and Nicholas Freudenberg, professors at the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy, and a colleague, considered the priorities for urban food advocates under the current administration. The work was published in the Journal of Food Law and Policy.

[Photo: Drs. Nevin Cohen (left) and Nicholas Freudenberg)

The team considered how to anticipate the current administration’s efforts and whether they will undermine food justice thus requiring advocates, researchers, and policy makers to choose priorities and forge strategic partnerships. The team maintained there are three broad areas that require attention.

Maintaining Federal Food Assistance: For many members of society federal food assistance program are critical. These program include Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), school meals, meals provided at senior centers or to homebound seniors or individuals with disabilities. Currently the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and school meals are entitlements. These entitlements create individual rights to benefits and currently there are neither waiting lists nor enrollment caps. Some Senate members would like to fold them into block grants and significantly cut funding. The Republican Party would also like to separate SNAP from the Department of Agriculture. Doing this will sever the rural-urban link and make it an easier fiscal target. The current administration would also like to reverse progress made in school food programs that feed all students in high poverty areas, which reduces stigma for low-income students, increases participation in lunch programs and cuts paperwork for schools.

Countering Industry Deregulation: As a candidate Trump campaigned against food industry regulations. He has significant authority, by way of setting appointments and budgets, for agencies that currently monitor food safety and advertising, including the Food and Drug Administration, the Department of Agriculture, and the Federal Communications Commission. The current administration is seeking to roll back the modest gains made during the Obama Administration, such as requiring added sugar to be part of the nutrition label. The team expressed concern that President Trump would like to deregulate the food industry, particularly on issues related to food safety. Labor rights, including issues around minimum wage and paid sick leave requirements may also be in danger.

Sustaining Regional Food Systems: The president’s proposed 2018 budget contains a 21 percent reduction to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s discretionary spending. Concern is expressed that these cuts may target efforts to support small and mid-size farms, farm-to-school programs, and support for farmer’s markets. These efforts go hand-in-hand with the administrations’ denial of climate change and challenges to the Obama Administrations’ requirements to reduce greenhouse gas emissions — which are included because of the adverse effects of climate change on agriculture and food security.

The article concludes with strategies to move forward and provides considerable thoughts for the reader.

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