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The Politics of Food

2.0 Contact Hours
Target Audience: Nurses, healthcare professionals, and interested individuals
Purpose/Goal: The outcome of this course is for the learner to describe how politics influences the production, treatment, management, and delivery of food in the United States; and how political influences surrounding food ultimately affect the health and well-being of individuals, other beings, communities, and the planet.
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Food production and politics are intimately connected. Decisions about what foods are produced, how they are produced, how food and animals are treated, as well as the personal connections related to food are complex and challenging. Food subsidies, school lunch programs, human and animal rights, the environmental consequences of food choices, and ultimately the health of all humans and other beings are all influenced by politics, lobbyists, and informed consumers.

Upon completion of the course, you will be able to do the following:

  • Describe key political issues and concerns related to the production of food in the United States.
  • Discuss food subsidies and their impact of food production.
  • Identify issues with the current school lunch program in the United States.
  • Describe human rights issues as they relate to food production and food choices.
  • Explain how food choices can impact the environment.
  • Identify ways to advocate for healthier food choices.

Many now believe that the fates of individuals and the fate of all of humanity are profoundly influenced by the foods we choose to eat. Consider that, in the span of 18 minutes, four Americans will be die because of their obesity and the food they eat. Most children today will live 10 years fewer years than their parents (Oliver, 2010). Environmental changes are occurring at a rapid rate and affecting millions of lives all over the world. The foods we choose to eat are contributing to global warming, the spread of pathogens, and farming practices that impact the health and well-being of humans as well as other species.

It was not always this way. The way most Americans eat today is profoundly different than the way they at just 50 years ago. According to Mark Bittman (2007) in his powerful TED talk, “What’s Wrong with What We Eat,” the following are key milestones that have affected our food, the politics surrounding how our food reaches the table, our nutrition, and the health of our citizens and communities.

  • After energy production, livestock is the largest contributor to greenhouse gases on the planet.
  • Our “wants” supersede our “needs” for foods that now contribute to many chronic diseases, costing the United States and global health care systems billions of dollars every year in health care costs, lost productivity, and increased morbidity and mortality. For example, our “want” for sugar (in the form of soft drinks, candy, and myriad products with high fructose corn syrup added) contributes to obesity, heart disease, and other chronic diseases.
  • The U. S. government subsidizes many food products (such as corn), which artificially affects the prices charged for the products in which they are used and has far-reaching economic and environmental impacts nationally and globally.
  • Half the people who are responsible for developing the new Food Pyramid have ties to agribusiness, resulting in profound conflicts of interest.
  • 10 billion animals are killed per year in the United States for food—more than 1 million animals every hour. The United States alone has 5% of the world’s population but accounts for approximately 20% of the animals killed worldwide for food.
  • Food production and delivery has changed dramatically in the last 50 years. Consider these facts:
    • In the 1900s, everyone ate locally, organically, and had a cook (usually the mother in the family).
    • No snack food or frozen food existed until the 1920s. Vitamin pills had not been invented and there was no marketing of food. Most foods contained only one or two ingredients because they consisted of only one or two ingredients. There were no “fast foods.”
    • In the 1930s, highways were built and suburbs exploded. The family farm almost completely ceased to exist. Government farm subsidies were implemented and corn, soy, cattle, and chicken farmers produced enormous amounts of food.
    • In the 1950s fast foods (and TV dinners) were developed and their use rapidly grew.
      • Cattle began to be raised “industrially” and were (and still are) fed subsidized foods (corn). They were given nontherapeutic antibiotics and sex and growth hormones. This sped up their growth cycle so more could be raised in shorter and shorter periods of time and so that more milk could be produced in less time. These practices are unhealthy for the animal and can be unsafe for humans.
    • In the 1970s, food production became “industrial.” Vegetarianism became more mainstream. The tradition of family “sit-down” dinners declined. Fast foods were very popular and existed because of farm subsidy products (such as corn) that allowed foods to be prepared and sold cheaply. No one thought about the quality of the products. More women entered the workforce and didn’t have the time to prepare food. Men didn’t want to make family meals.
    • In 2000, organic foods became more popular. Food “secrets” (such as antibiotic and hormone use in livestock) began to be exposed. The overproduction and overconsumption of meat and junk foods has increasingly resulted in an explosion of chronic health conditions and environmental devastation. More protein is eaten than is needed and fewer plants are consumed than what is considered healthy.

Complete the course post exam (CE Test) with a score of 80% or greater. Complete all fields of the course evaluation form. Certificate of Completion is provided once the course post exam is passed per criteria above.

  • American Board of Managed Care Nursing
  • ANCC - American Nurses Credentialing Center
  • AOTA - American Occupational Therapy Association
  • ASWB - Association of Social Work Boards
  • California Board of Registered Nursing
  • California Department of Health, Aid, and Technician Certification Section
  • District of Columbia Board of Nursing
  • Florida Board of Nursing
  • Florida Board of Nursing - Certified Nursing Assistants
  • Florida Board of Respiratory Care
  • Florida Council of Dietetics and Nutrition
  • Florida Council of Licensed Midwifery
  • NAADAC - The National Association of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors
Course Expires:

July 01, 2019

Instructor(s):
  • Caroline Young, MPH
  • Cyndie Koopsen, RN, BSN, MBA, HNB-BC, RN-BC, HWNC-BC
Jurisdictional Requirements:

Continuing education (CE) licensing requirements vary by jurisdiction, are not well defined, and may change. These CE requirements may vary in terms of the number of hours required to the types of courses that must be taken. ALLEGRA Learning Solutions, LLC recommends you contact your licensing board or accrediting organization for the latest continuing education requirements of your state or territory. Compliance with CE requirements is the responsibility of the individual health care provider. Health care providers must understand the CE requirements in their jurisdictions, and be sure they are up-to-date on any rule changes that affect their license. For further information, please see our Accreditation Information.

Accommodations for Disabilities:

Every effort will be made to accommodate your special needs. To request accommodations, please contact us.

Conflicts of Interest and Relevant Financial Relationships:

The authors/planning committee members have no conflicts of interests or relevant financial relationships to declare relevant to this activity.

Commercial Support:

No commercial support has been received for this activity.

Non-endorsement of products:

Accreditation refers to recognition of continuing nursing education only and does not imply ALLEGRA Learning Solutions, LLC approval or endorsement of any commercial product.

Off-label Use of Products:

None of the authors intend to discuss off-label uses of drugs, mechanical devices, biologics, or diagnostics not approved by the FDA for use in the United States.

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