Farm Bill Goals Include Consumer Empowerment, Sound Science and More

Photo: USDA Food and Nutrition Service/Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

As co-chairs of the Academy’s Farm Bill work group, we had the distinct pleasure of deliberating the impact and direction of an upcoming piece of legislation that directly affects many RDNs, including those working in nutrition education and research. The Farm Bill provides support and incentives for agriculture and for our most nutritionally vulnerable populations.  The Academy Farm Bill work group, as directed by the Legislative and Public Policy Committee, was well represented by experts in agriculture, urban and rural food insecurity, public health research and nutrition education. The work group reviewed the many programs that impact our patients, clients and our food supply with the guiding principle to protect and strengthen our commitment to improving health for all.

The Academy Farm Bill work group has come up with the following four major areas of work and goals. Each of these have specific programmatic and structural recommendations for Congress to consider as they begin their work on the 2018 Farm Bill.

Empower Consumers — Drive Demand Toward Healthful Foods and Reduce Food Waste

Goal: Nutrition education programs authorized in the Farm Bill are tailored to participants’ education levels and lifestyles to help them make lifelong healthful behavior changes.

Ensure Sound Science and Program Evaluation for Future Evidenced-Based Decision Making

Goal: A strong science portfolio informs development and enhancement of nutrition program content, and high-quality, systematic monitoring and evaluation provide guidance for structuring and strengthening consumer education implementation and delivery systems.

Support Innovative Nutrition Assistance Programs to Improve Access to Healthful, Affordable and Safe Foods

Goal: Domestic and international nutrition safety nets are protected and strengthened by streamlining administrative requirements for all nutrition assistance programs and coordinating healthful food production with nutrition assistance programs.

Support the Food Supply Chain: Producers and Retailers That Create a Healthful and Safe Food System and Reduce Food Waste

Goal: Support producers and retailers to meet demand for healthful foods.

We thank our work group members, and ask our fellow Academy members to join our commitment to improving health for all through improved food and nutrition policy in the Farm Bill. Participate in Academy Action Alerts to inform Congress of important nutrition legislation, make time to read and learn about the Farm Bill through this and other communications, and provide time for updates and discussions with your work colleagues, your local dietetic or state affiliate organizations.

Farm Bill Work Group members:

  • Lauren Au, PhD, RD and Karen Ehrens, RD, LRD, Co-Chairs
  • Karen Bakies, RD, LD
  • Leigh Ann Edwards, MPH, RDN
  • Fern Gale Estrow, MA, RDN
  • Tracy Fox, MPH, RDN
  • Janice Giddens, MS, RDN
  • Lisa Harnack, DrPH, RD, MPH
  • Amanda Hege, RDN, LDN
  • Carla Honselman, PhD, MS, RDN
  • Patty Keane, MS, RDN
Lauren Au, PhD, RD and Karen Ehrens, RD, LRD
Lauren Au, PhD, RD, is an assistant researcher at the University of California’s Nutrition Policy Institute. Dr. Au obtained her PhD from Tufts University and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at U.C. Berkeley. She served as a nutrition advisor to U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, where she helped lead many nutrition initiatives, such as preserving funding for WIC and fighting to prevent food stamp cuts in the Farm Bill. She is a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Legislative Public Policy Committee (LPPC) and co-chair of the Farm Bill Work Group.

Karen K. Ehrens, RD, LRD, is a health, food and nutrition consultant, registered dietitian and policy advocate in Bismarck, ND. Karen consults in preventing chronic disease and local foods initiatives, and serves as coordinator for the Creating a Hunger Free North Dakota Coalition. She is past chair of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Legislative and Public Policy Committee (LPPC) and co-chair of the Farm Bill Work Group.