Tonight's political debate is forecasted to be the TV event of the year. Move aside, Oscars or Grammy night, people across America will be clearing their schedules to sit down and see what the two political candidates have to say in their first head-to-head debate.
Some Americans will be watching for a different reason though. Fast food workers across the nation will be protesting outside of the debate about the issues of wages and union rights. The protestors are calling for a nationwide minimum wage of $15, which would be over double the current federal minimum of $7.25. This has been an on-going cause, and it's not the only food related political issue that we're hoping to hear about in tonight's debate. Below are six more food policy problems we'd love to hear from both candidates about:
A common issue for low-income families, food security refers to people having access to enough food to live a healthy, active lifestyle. In 2015, an estimated 12.7 percent of households in the US were food insecure at some point. That means 15.8 million households worried about having enough food to eat last year. With the approved House budget planning to cut $150 billion (over 20 percent) of their funding to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) over the next decade, low-income families across the nation are going to be facing more hunger than ever.
As a major producer of food, the US is also a major producer of food waste. An astonishing 50 percent of all produce is thrown away in households and grocery stores across the country, making it the bulk of American landfills. There are multiple reasons for this nationwide issue, including "ugly" foods being rejected by consuming and producers, and supermarkets tossing food that hasn't actually spoiled yet. France is attempting to curb their amount of food waste by recently passing a law that made it illegal for grocery stores to toss or destroy unsold foods that are still fit for consumption. Instead, these foods will be donated to local food banks for low-income families. The USDA currently has goals to reduce food waste, but these mostly involve educating citizens about food waste instead of passing laws that hold businesses accountable.
Making headlines across the nation, some major cities have instituted what have been nicknamed "fat taxes" on junk food items. Although politically controversial, taxes like the Philadelphia soda tax and the Navajo Nation's junk food tax are thought to help curb obesity, prevent unhealthy eating habits, and boost local government revenue. Hillary Clinton has been outspoken on her endorsement of Philadelphia's soda tax, which will help fund early childhood education in the city. Other food-based tax issues include whether every state should tax groceries, and if healthy food should be tax-free as an incentive for consumers to make better choices.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is an integral part of the nation's food supply by inspecting factories, announcing food recalls, and making laws on proper food labeling. Recent bouts of food recalls have made safety of the food supply a hot topic among consumers. Trump's proposed tax plan (which is no longer available for viewing) mentioned cutting funding for the FDA's food safety regulations. Clinton has not made an official stance on food safety or regulations.
Not everyone views climate change as a food-based issue, but in many ways it is. Climate change may affect growing conditions for food, disrupt natural eco systems (including those of often-consumed fish), and make it more difficult to raise livestock. The U.S. Global Change Research Program released in 2015 their full assessment, Climate Change, Global Food Security, and the U.S. Food System, which outlines the potential effects on the US and world-wide food supply if climate change continues at its current pace. Although it's currently a common political topic, we'd also like to hear from the political candidates about the food side of things.
Take a look at almost every aspect of farming, and you can find a political issue that goes hand-in-hand with it. Whether it's immigration reforms hindering the search for farm hands, government subsidies keeping aging farms afloat, or GMO labeling affecting crop sales, politics and farming are intertwined whether they like it or not. How the candidates plan to deal with issues such as the USDA budget, crop subsidies, and worker wages will also affect how farms operate nationwide.
We'll be all watching tonight, maybe with a snack and drink in hand, to see if there's a glimmer of food politics between the two candidates.