They're Coming for Our Food, One Food Policy Council at a Time
If you live in a sane place where the local government confines its duties to schools, public safety, and pothole repair, it's tempting to congratulate yourself when you read about the recent proposals to ban 17-ounce sodas in Cambridge, MA and New York City.
Unfortunately, these seemingly isolated efforts are not merely the work of a few unhinged city councils; the federal government, through ObamaCare and Michelle Obama's Let's Move campaign, has been busy extending its tentacles into municipal and state governments, with the goal of imposing restrictions across the country on tobacco use and unhealthy eating. After all, once the State assumes responsibility for the health care costs of its citizens, doesn't it have the right to tell them how much sugar, fat, and tobacco they can consume? No one will be outside the coming federal nanny state under ObamaCare (except for those cronies with waivers).
Take for example the Cambridge City Council discussion of the policy order mimicking New York's soda ban. Mayor Henrietta Davis stated that she was "asking for a recommendation from the Public Health Department" which would weigh whether "voluntary measures [or] education" were sufficient or "whether regulation is needed." Mayor Davis concluded:
I place my faith in them to take a step using the power they have in the Public Health Department to do something relative to soda as it affects these twin [sic] epidemics of obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
It turns out that the Cambridge Health Department has a new office to deal with such questions, as reported in the City's 2013 Proposed Budget:
At a special ceremony, Cambridge officially signed on to First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move campaign. In fall 2011, the City established a standing Food & Fitness Policy Council (FFPC), which is housed in the health department. The policy council represents a major step forward in establishing a comprehensive approach for addressing obesity at the municipal level. The Department also received a five-year, $300,000 federal Community Transformation Grant to implement policy and environmental approaches to healthy eating and active living in Cambridge, which will help support policy initiatives recommended by the FFPC. (Section IV, p. 399)
Hmm...Community Transformation Grants? Food & Fitness Policy Councils?
Our president was a community organizer who spoke of "fundamentally transforming the United States of America," so I guess it's no surprise to discover Community Transformation Grants in this year's federal budget. The grants were announced in September 2011 as a program created by the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare), with funding going through the Department of Health and Human Services' Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This year's allocation was for $103 million, and you can bet that when the ObamaCare monster starts eating solid food in 2014, its appetite will grow.
In a familiar pattern, of the $103 million, 42 grants worth $78 million went to blue states (voting for Obama in the 2008 election), while 18 grants totaling $25 million were awarded to red states. In this case, blue states might have been targeted as more likely to submit to federal control.
Food Policy Councils predate ObamaCare and Let's Move, but their number has sharply risen during the Obama presidency. The Community Food Security Coalition reports a 74% rise from 111 to 193 Food Policy Councils in the last two years (2010 to May 2012). An incomplete list of over 170 regional, state, and city FPCs is on the Food Security website.
The work of these councils includes things like the soda bans, banning flavored milk in Los Angeles schools, new ordinances regulating healthy street vendor food, "food chain labor issues," "EBT/WIC outreach at farmers' markets," zoning revisions permitting urban chicken coops, "garden based public school education," and on and on. Local food and food security are recurrent goals, as seen in this typical mission statement:
The Detroit Food Policy Council is committed to nurturing the development and maintenance of a sustainable, localized food system and a food-secure city of Detroit in which all of its residents are hunger-free, healthy and benefit economically from the food system that impacts their lives.
(The people who are "impacted" by the food system ought to "benefit economically"? Shouldn't it be the butcher, the brewer, and the baker who benefit?)
In principle, our cities and states are laboratories of democracy that are free to propose wacky experiments like urban beekeeping. Citizens can vote down such measures, or vote with their feet if they are in a minority. Our federalist system breaks down, however, when the representatives of the federal government are funded and given enforcement powers inside municipal governments. As Cambridge Mayor Davis indicated above, the decision to ban anything larger than a McDonald's small soda will not be subject to a democratic referendum; it will be made by a group of federally funded bureaucrats who will "us[e] the power they have in the Public Health Department."
The Food Policy Council fits into a recurring pattern of the Obama administration's usurpation of local and state control of laws governing climate change, gay marriage, and immigration, and of the United Nations infiltration of local government through Agenda 21.
Welcome to the brave new world of ObamaCare.