Food choice is important! However, when we think of the phrase “Food Choice,” it often refers to the concept of choosing between a hamburger and a salad. Well, that is not what we’re going to discuss. This is not another article about how the choices in your food affect your health, well-being, and the environment. While that concept of ‘choice’ certainly has its merits, this is a discussion of autonomy, equality, and justice. The term “Food Autonomy,” is less well-known, but is really the idea we’d like to present so for the sake of this discussion, the terms choice and autonomy are synonymous.
So what is “Food Autonomy”? Food Autonomy is founded on Four Fundamental Pillars:
Access for all people to a sufficient quantity of quality food and to food resources, at a reasonable cost.
Power in the form of the ability to produce or purchase, with full dignity, a variety of healthy foods that are also to our taste. This requires being well-informed and well-equipped to make good choices.
Respect for nature, the environment, communities, neighbourhoods and lifestyles. This requires eco-responsible management of resources and fairness in the way these resources are shared among everyone.
Action This involves implementing a variety of methods, both collectively and individually, towards the achievement of real food autonomy. It also implies empowerment and self-reliance in a spirit of respect for others and your surroundings.
So why bring this up? Well, perhaps you have heard of the current administration’s proposed budget plan for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or more commonly known as Food Stamps. For those of you who haven’t, the proposal is to divert half of SNAP recipients benefits to a “Harvest Box,” comprised of items like cereal, canned vegetables and meats, shelf-stable milk, and peanut butter. No fresh fruits or vegetables will be included. The idea is that the Harvest Box would be delivered, through undetermined means, to SNAP recipients. However, it seems rather clear that the USDA will not be footing the bill for delivery. Advocates for the plan claim that it would save $129 Billion over the course of 10 years and that it would provide more nutritious food than they have now.
Let that all sink in for a minute. Essentially, the USDA is proposing a system in which food choice is taken from millions of Americans. Built on the claim that their food would be more nutritious. Despite its flaw, at the very least the current system operates on a “free market model”. While the level of “access” people have is questionable, they still have a choice. The choice to spend their benefits on fresh vegetables or canned vegetables. The choice to buy spam or a steak. The choice to NOT buy peanut butter because their child has an allergy.
While we do live in a society where people’s food choice is segregated through capitalistic mechanisms, that segregation is not intentionally targeted by a governmental power. And that is exactly what this proposal aims to do. It will draw a line, saying, “this group of people will no longer get to decide, for better or worse, which foods they get to consume. No, we, the government, will decide for them!”
There is no greater example of a violation of the American principles of freedom and, dare I say it, the free market. How easy it is for Americans to defend the rights to guns, but guns are not needed to live. Food is! And we, the people, need to be up in arms over the right to choose the foods our markets provide us. That choice should not, it cannot, belong to the government.
Beyond a simple violation of freedom, food autonomy lies in the circumstance of a mother knowing what her children will or will not eat. How dare a D.C. bureaucrat assume they know better. Will the food have recipes included? What if the food in these boxes are something the recipient has never eaten before? What about allergies? And we won’t even get into the logistical issues that this idea is riddled with.
We do hope you can see the importance of this. We could go on and on about how this would impact people’s health, how more money would be spent coordinating the process than on food itself, or how this will take a huge chunk out of local business and agriculture. But the bottom line is that basic freedoms are being threatened and we need to make sure that does not happen.