The Norman Rockwell painting “Freedom from Want” is a tribute to one of the four freedoms that President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared people ought to enjoy in his 1941 State of the Union speech. For Roosevelt, this freedom meant having “economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants—everywhere in the world." His words later influenced the inclusion of the right to an adequate standard of living—which includes a right to food—in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Reading these words 70 years later, we need to recognize that our country of over 300 million people has close to an equal number of images of what "freedom from want" really means. An extended family enjoying an enormous turkey dinner for Thanksgiving is just one idealized perspective from the dominant culture.
With these diverse perspectives come very different ideas for what government’s role should be in achieving a truly just and healthy food system. The past 70 years have brought different actors to our dinner table, most notably agribusiness and food marketers. Given these new dinner companions, how many spaces should be saved for Congress and local government officials?
Many of the IATP Food and Community Fellows argue that corporate interests have been somewhat unruly guests at the table. And unfortunately, we have far too many examples of government being absent from the tables where it is invited and intruding on the tables where it isn’t needed. From international trade agreements to the creation of local food policy councils, however, the clear, resounding proclamation emerging from these commentaries is that participation is required. Whatever your "freedom from want" looks like, we all need to claim our place at the table.
The Government Can Start With Women and Infants
By Kimberly Seals Allers
Our government remains an active participant in promoting unhealthy food practices for its most vulnerable citizens. Let's start with the first food, breast milk.
Good Policy Means Engaging With Communities
By Kandace Vallejo
There is a productive tension between the belief that policy is a viable mechanism to create change and the belief in innovative grassroots solutions to social problems.
Make USDA the People's Department
By Cheryl Danley
We need to acknowledge the U.S. agricultural system was built on a foundation of structural racism that has led to the social injustices we face today.
Pass a Farm Bill Now
By Don Bustos
Delaying the passage of this farm bill jeopardizes the fragile policy work done over years by local, state and national groups to make some progress toward a fair, equitable and sustainable agriculture system in this country.
Government Is What We Make Of It
By Nina Kahori Fallenbaum
We shouldn't conclude that historical missteps eliminate the usefulness of government or diminish our need to keep it accountable.
Restrain Corporate Power and Influence in the Food System
By Raj Patel
Perhaps that’s why the most exciting changes in the food system are happening at a municipal and state level. Initiatives like food policy councils are useful first steps in the practice of reimagining how democratic control of the food system might look.