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February 9, 2010

Did the President Just Create a National Food Policy Council?

Michelle Obama kicked off her campaign against childhood obesity today. Among the provisions are a revamping of the school lunch program, a small boost in funding for farmers markets, a major initiative to "end" food deserts by 2017, a focus on maintaining children's exercise levels, a set of broad public-private partnerships, along with reforms to front-of-package nutrition labeling and the food pyramid (see the WaPo's Jane Black for a good summary).

But the most intriguing element may have been the creation of The Presidential Task Force on Childhood Obesity. According to the White House blog:

The new task force is charged with developing an interagency action plan to solve the problem of obesity among our Nation's children as part of the First Lady’s Let's Move campaign. The campaign will take a comprehensive approach to engage both public and private sectors to help children become more active and eat healthier within a generation, so that children born today will reach adulthood at a healthy weight.

Members of the task force include: the Secretary of the Interior; the Secretary of Agriculture; Secretary of Health and Human Services; Secretary of Education; Director of the Office of Management and Budget; Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff to the First Lady; Assistant to the President for Economic Policy; and heads of other executive departments, agencies, or offices as the Chair may
designate.

By their nature, food policy councils are designed to circumvent the parochial interests and often "captured" status of regulatory agencies. By making people who don't normally talk sit together and consider the broader impact of their policies, food policy councils have the potential to keep special interests from dominating policy debates.

Most state-level food policy councils, such as New York's or Iowa's (created by then Gov. Tom Vilsack), include nutrition and access to health food as their core mission. And many find themselves moving towards involvement in local food and expansion of farmers markets and the like as a result of the inevitable conclusion that food production and food access are inexorably linked.

READ THE REST OF THIS POST AT GRIST.ORG

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