Why Aren't the Presidential Candidates Talking About Food?

March 24, 2016
by Steve Holt for Thrive Market
Why Aren't the Presidential Candidates Talking About Food?

No matter what your political affiliation, we can all agree the 2016 race for the White House has been equal parts fascinating, wacky, unprecedented, and intense. While this crazy campaign has often delved into the realm of the unbelievable, it has occasionally focused on actual issues affecting Americans—from healthcare, to taxes, to war, to job creation.

There’s one policy issue, though, that impacts all 319 million Americans that the candidates for president (on both sides) have barely addressed: food policy.

That’s right—the complicated web of legislation, regulation, and corporate influence that gets food from farms to our plates—has not been central to any candidate’s stump speech. In fact, it has barely come up. Even in the months leading up to the January caucuses in Iowa—perhaps the nation’s quintessential agricultural state—food and farm policy positions were a non-factor in the outcome. In fact, Ted Cruz, who won the Republican caucuses, fiercely and vocally opposes federal subsidies for corn to make ethanol fuel—a beloved program in Iowa.

Even now, you have to do quite a bit of digging to find anything remotely resembling candidate positions on issues like genetic modification, federal nutrition benefits such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), or the industrialization of our food supply.

Huffington Post wanted to get the candidates on the record on some of these issues, so it sent each candidate a questionnaire asking about food and agriculture policy positions. Prominent food nonprofit Food Tank did the same. The results? Crickets. Neither received a completed survey from even one of the candidates on food policy.

In fairness, two candidates have previously published some of their views on agriculture and the “rural economy,” but they almost never talk about those views in debates or at rallies.

What gives? The food system is, perhaps, the most vital industry we have as a nation. It nourishes us. It sustains families. It regenerates (or, in some cases, harms) our ecology. It drives economies. Few would argue the fact that as farms and food corporations have grown in size, the food we eat has become less nutritious, less localized, and more consolidated. Chemical use in agriculture is harming not only the land and the workers who farm it, but the population as well.

According to a new survey by Johns Hopkins University, American voters overwhelmingly—92 percent!—want a food system that utilizes sustainable practices and are more than half are willing to take their food values into the voting both. And Food Policy Action (which last year launched its “Plate of the Union” campaign to bring food back to the campaign trail) has conducted a series of polls revealing that American voters are concerned about an array of food policy issues, from childhood nutrition to worker rights. As we’ve seen on issues like GMOs, voter opinions can sway policy-makers and corporations to enact change.

There’s no question that given the increased interest in food and food policy among average Americans, the subject is destined to become a talking point in future campaigns. We can’t wait for future campaigns, however—the challenges (from pesticides to diet-related disease) are too great.

Do you want the candidates for President to make food policy a bigger part of their campaigns? Let them know!

Editor's note: Although Bernie Sanders and other candidates have spoken about food policy in the past, no candidate has made the issue a significant part of their presidential campaign. 

Photo credit: Alex Proimos via Flickr

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This article is related to: Food, Living, News

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  • Karissa Besaw

    Bernie Sanders has talked about food policies repeatedly, recognizes the corruption of Big Agriculture, and supports GMO labeling. http://feelthebern.org/bernie-sanders-on-agriculture/

  • http://cityoflynnconcepts.com/ Katerina

    Not true at all. Bernie Sanders vows to protect organic food. But you might not know this because corporate media doesn't like talking about Sanders. Here is what you need to know.... http://althealthworks.com/9017/we-need-the-courage-to-take-on-these-huge-food-and-biotech-companies-bernie-sanders-shares-his-views-on-gmos-during-a-private-eventyelena/

  • Phyllis

    I believe the food supply all over the world is thoroughly contaminated in some form or another, including organics (from conventional blow back if nothing else) - by design. That's why no one is talking about it.

  • Doug Fox

    Fortunately, that is not true. Thrive Market should be endorsing and thanking Bernie Sanders for his tireless stance on food policy. He has made it very clear he stands for GMO labeling and wants to protect organic farming from the corrupt hands of Big Ag. A quick glance at what he has done as Senator of Vermont will quickly tell you this.

  • C Savides

    Did anyone (Steve Holt) actually research this? Bernie Sanders vows to protect organic food and is anti-GMO. Why are you glossing over him just like the mainstream media? This is a candidate whose policy would benefit your company greatly, It would be wise to get behind him and even *GASP* endorse him publically and give him some more exposure, it would be a win-win for everyone.

  • Lindsey Erickson

    Are you being serious? Bernie Sanders talks about it often.

  • Rose ⚫❤

    How about Bernie Sanders? Unfortunately the media doesn't give him enough air time to talk about all of his concerns. Please research this, it would be nice to have an article about HOW Bernie Sanders will help with these issues (among many many others) that are important to all of us.

  • Jill R

    Post Bernies policies! So tired of the Bernie blackout! Cmon thrive, who would environmentalists vote for? Bernie!

  • http://www.shiftbars.com Emily Shaules

    Really? Get your facts straight and endorse Bernie Sanders. http://feelthebern.org/bernie-sanders-on-agriculture/


    The reason none of these candidates address any important issues is because they are incompetent frontmen, who have no power to do anything about anything. They are merely puppets who do what they are told by those who actually run the country and the world.

  • KSB

    Bernie Sanders vows to protect organic farming, his state VT was the first to require GMO labels, he's 100% on animal rights (first candidate in history), and he wants the ~50,000,000 people in poverty to have better access to food, healthcare, education, housing, etc. Join the political revolution & FEELTHEBERN!

  • Legend79

    The reality is - because most Americans are not worried (aka: fear) about their food sources or access to food. But they are however afraid of religious extremism (that's not xtian), alleged unfettered immigration, and the gay agenda. (I'm listing them not espousing them so don't come back at me!) No matter how much press attention our food (sources, access, nutritional deficiencies...) gets, the majority of Americans don't see an issue as long as they can get to a drive-thru and satiate their needs. And the anti-lacto-gluten vote ain't attractive enough to chase.

    Michelle Obama was initially excoriated and mocked for her First Lady agenda around food and exercise, in the media and of course by the GOP and their pundits. So from a political stand point, talking about food is likely to be off the table. Unless its made a national security and employment issue. (Which it should be - both!!!)

    Sanders migth have the better record on the subject, but it's not gonna get him the Win. Mainly becuase its not (yet) viewed as a political issue. Not this year...maybe in a few...

  • Roxana Villa

    I completely disagree with Steve Holts opinion in his article on Thrive Market about the presidential candidates barely addressing the food issue.The main reason I am voting for Bernie Sanders is because as Senator of Vermont he is requiring labeling of GMO's and has been very outspoken on this issue. So when Steve writes "Even now, you have to do quite a bit of digging to find anything remotely resembling candidate positions on issues like genetic modification, federal nutrition benefits such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), or the industrialization of our food supply." NOT! Bernie has been very outspoken about his views on GMO’s dude, where have you been?

  • Roxana Villa

    @SteveHolt, here you go: http://www.trueactivist.com/bernie-sanders-takes-on-monsanto-vows-to-protect-organic-farming-and-push-for-gmo-labeling/

  • Lisa likes to wonder things

    Was Jill Stein offered these questions? As a doctor, I would be interested in her responses.

  • Reham Kcirtap

    Can you please make your articles even more unreadable by cramming a few more ads and pop-ups into the page? I can almost get through the entire thing.

  • Krofter

    If Hillary Clinton or any of the Republicans get in the White House we can expect their corporate connections will ensure that the revolving door that currently exists between the government and corporations like Monsatan, will continue to spin.

  • C Savides

    While I see that you have made an update/update, it was laughable. Seriously, are you blind Steve Holt, or do you just disagree with Bernie for political reasons? The big question is does Thrive share Steve Holt's bias? Bernie Sanders is the ONLY candidate that has made this a part of his platform. And since you still don't want to do the right thing (or can't because you have painted yourself into a corner with the original (untrue) story) Let me help you with some (really easy to find) research.

    And here is a video so you don't have to take the effort to actually read something.

  • C Savides

    @Thrive Look at these responses to this article. These are your customers talking to you. Why are you ignoring us? "In the past"? this is current!