Mark Bittman: How President Obama Can Stop Being ‘Steadfastly Short-Sighted’ about National Food Policy


Mark Bittman calls on President Obama to establish a national food policy once and for all. 

In his latest op-ed for The New York Times, longtime columnist and food journalist Mark Bittman calls for a closer look at the country’s national food policy, which he has done previously in a collaborative editorial on The Washington Post.

In his op-ed “Let’s Address the State of Food,” Bittman highlights some troubling information about the always-tangled intersection between income disparity and food access.

For one thing, nearly 50 million Americans currently depend on SNAP benefits, formerly known as food stamps, to feed their families. Furthermore, given that the current national minimum wage is “only marginally up from its all-time low when adjusted for inflation, even a raise to $10 would not bring it to its 1968 value, which is why the cry for a national minimum of $15 makes so much sense,” writes Bittman.

Given that President Obama has been “steadfastly short-sighted” about the value of enforcing a strong national food policy, (though not blind, and “downright brilliant” compared to his predecessor),in Bittman’s estimation, it falls to Debra Eschmeyer, the White House’s newly appointed senior policy adviser for nutrition policy (previously held by Sam Kass), to focus on an area where the President has paid too little attention.

Why should we pay any attention to the State of the Union, food-wise?

“Because the issues that confront most Americans directly are income, food (thereby, agriculture), health and climate change. (And, of course, war, but let’s leave that aside for now),” Bittman writes.

“These are all related: You can’t address climate change without fixing agriculture, you can’t fix health without improving diet, you can’t improve diet without addressing income, and so on. The production, marketing, and consumption of food is key to nearly everything. (It’s one of the keys to war, too, because large-scale agriculture is dependent on control of global land, oil, minerals and water.)”

In preparation for Obama’s upcoming State of the Union Address, which will happen later this evening on Tuesday, January 20, Bittman asked fellow food journalist Michael Pollan to share what he’d like to hear from Obama:


“I am expanding the portfolio of my new senior policy adviser for nutrition policy, Debra Eschmeyer, to encompass all the policy areas that food touches: agriculture, nutritional health, and environmental health. She will be charged with harmonizing our policies across these three areas, so that, for example, our agricultural policies contribute not just to the prosperity of American farmers but to the health of our people and the land.”