Food Programs and Agriculture

Five former Secretaries of Agriculture recently got together in Des Moines, Iowa, to discuss the problem of food insecurity, and how to bring better nutrition to those on government-funded feeding programs such as SNAP and WIC.

Former Ag Secretary Mike Johanns says if he were “king for a day,” he would design a program that comes from the local level. It would bring nutrition experts and the medical community together to target that region’s specific needs. He says trying to design a program for New York City is so vastly different than designing a program for North Platte, Nebraska.

"That’s why I like the flexibility at the local level and the ability for folks at the local level to say this is what we’re dealing with here," says Johanns. "So, incentive programs that really incentivize fresh fruit, vegetable, grains, wheats, choices that really can have a health impact."

Former Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack says one of the problems with coordination is that we tend to separate farmers from the food industry. This also limits the ability to say to the rest of the country, this is the most significant industry we have in the United States.

"If you look at those who are employed in agriculture and those who are employed in food and you combine them, you’re talking about 23 million people," says Vilsack. "So, our ability, I think to prioritize issues related to food, issues relating to agriculture, is directly related to our ability to explain to policymakers you’re not just dealing with a small segment of society, here. You’re dealing with something that impacts and affects everyone every single day."

Read more about what the ag secretaries had to say about hunger and food programs.