In an effort to declare September California's Food Literacy Awareness Month, assembly member Roger Dickinson (D-Sacramento) drafted ACR 161. It has since come under fire from lobbyists representing the California Grocers Association, the California Farm Bureau Federation and other agricultural groups, California Watch reports.
What does ACR 161 state?
As noted by Around the Capitol, ACR 161 would "proclaim the month of September of each year as food literacy awareness month." The resolution calls for cooperation between California's Department of Health Care Services, Department of Public Health and Department of Education to bring educational activities to local communities, highlighting healthy food choices.
Why is there a need for a food literacy month?
Dickinson points out that 38 percent of California children are currently overweight. Contributing factors to this health crisis include poor diet, lack of physical exercise, limited access to fresh foods in poor neighborhoods and an overabundance of fast food restaurants in these same areas.
Which portions of the resolution upset the lobbyists?
One of the California Food Literacy Awareness Month resolution's statements deemed controversial is the assertion that "food grown and consumed locally has a higher nutrient value than foods transported long distances." Another cause of disagreement is the suggestion that shopping at farmers' markets leads to more purchases of fruits and vegetables than shopping at supermarkets. As a result, Dickinson calls for an "expansion of local food systems." Also under fire is the claim that "organic produce contains higher levels of vitamins and nutrients than those sprayed with pesticides."
Why do lobbyists working for California growers disagree with the statements in the resolution?
Talking to California Watch, the lobbyist for California's agricultural groups, as well as the California Grocers Association, calls the statement involving the superior nutritional value of organic produce "factually inaccurate." The lobbyist for the California Farm Bureau Federation considers research results evaluating health benefits of organic produce as being inconclusive and therefore opposes the resolution declaring September California Food Literacy Awareness Month. This lobbyist also criticizes the notion of locally grown foods being better.
Were there other concerns as well?
Yes, the Public Policy Institute of California disagrees with the finding that residents in poorer neighborhoods have limited access to healthy food. A representative of the institute proposes to "broaden the conversation about why poverty and obesity" seem to go hand in hand. Unlike the lobbyists, the Public Policy Institute of California commits to working with organizations fulfilling the precepts of California Food Literacy Month.
What is next?
ACR 161 passed the committee with 11 votes in favor and five dissenting. The California Food Literacy Center is already established and educates website visitors on the fruits and vegetables currently in season, urban foraging and "living la vida locavore."
Sylvia Cochran is a Los Angeles area resident with a firm finger on the pulse of California politics. Talk radio junkie, community volunteer and politically independent, she scrutinizes the good and the bad from both sides of the political aisle.
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