Addressing Equity Through Better Food Policy

During a recent conversation at the Taste of Santa Barbara event, Congressmember Salud Carbajal called for the expansion of nutrition programs, tools to help farmers respond to the climate crisis, and engaged citizens who make their voices heard.

A member of the House Agriculture Committee, Carbajal is looking ahead to the 2023 Farm Bill. Typically renewed every five years, the Bill covers food and agricultural issues ranging from crop insurance to rural development.

Carbajal hopes that the upcoming Bill will expand Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits and provide greater flexibility for SNAP recipients to purchase foods. He also wants to see the Bill support organic farming practices to help farmers shift away from chemicals that harm both workers and the environment.

“I think we could also look at making sure that we’re doing everything possible to provide farmers [with] the tools to address climate change through conservation, and the knowledge that, I think, traditionally hasn’t been the highest priority for farmers,” Carbajal says.

Carbajal also reminds the audience that while the Farm Bill is important, it isn’t the only piece of legislation that influences the country’s food system. The Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act, for example, includes key nutrition programs including the School Breakfast Program, National School Lunch Program, and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). With Carbjal’s support, the House also recently passed the Farm Worker Modernization Act of 2021, which is designed to provide a pathway to citizenship for farm workers and their families and help to address labor shortages in the U.S. agriculture sector.

While some advocacy organizations oppose the Act, Carbajal hopes to see it pass in the Senate. “I’m very proud of that legislation,” Carbajal says. “I think it addresses our labor challenge that our farmers are facing. And it also provides the equity issue of making sure that those foreign workers…are recognized and aren’t relegated to living in the shadows.”

Carbajal also reminds voters that they play an essential role in building a better food system. “We oftentimes talk like somebody else is going to advocate for me,” he says. “If we’re not doing it ourselves, we’re guilty of not being part of the solution.”

He encourages everyone to write to their representatives to demand change. “Be hopeful,” Carbajal says. “Stay engaged. Let people know what you think. Give us your advice. Be part of the solution.”

Listen to the full conversation with Congressmember Salud Carbajal on “Food Talk with Dani Nierenberg” to hear more about changing the crop subsidy system, the upcoming White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health, and Cabajal’s vision for a task force that breaks down silos within the federal government.

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Photo courtesy of Dan Meyers, Unsplash

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