Food policy is that particular part of public policy which is concerned with the way food is created, distributed and purchased by consumers. It can be developed by both non-governmental and governmental agencies. (What Is, 2011). In the United States, food policy began as early as the 1880s over concerns about unfit food, diseased livestock and testing of meat. By the early 1900s, the Pure Food and Drug Act and the Federal Meat Inspection Act had both become law (FSIS, 2012).
Food policy exists to affect decisions concerning the techniques by which food is produced, when and where it is available for purchase and consumption by the public, and how to make it as safe as possible (What Is, 2011). Food policy is also designed to erase hunger among poor citizens. In the U.S., such policy comes in the form of monthly benefits based on family income, adjusted for certain deductibles and household size, and can only be used for the purchase of foods. This policy is known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) (A Closer Look, 2012).
The primary indicator and determinant in the policy formulation for SNAP is the nutritional needs of families, and especially children, in the U.S. This is an issue of concern which is relevant at every level of policy determination. In 2011 alone, nearly half of all the U.S. citizens who benefited from SNAP funding were children. Since one of the important reasons for food policy to exist is to erase hunger, SNAP is in line with this framework.
The data needed to determine whether SNAP is meeting its objectives is (1) the number of children, ages 12 and under, enrolled in SNAP in the U.S. in 2015 for two fiscal quarters;(2) the amount of dollars spent in SNAP benefits per child in the U.S. in 2015 for two fiscal quarters; and (3) a targeted daily food assessment of a control group of SNAP-enrolled children, ages 12 and under, for two fiscal quarters of 2015. Quantitative form could include (1) a calculated ratio of the number of dollars spent to the number of children enrolled and (2) a resultant graph of dollars spent to beneficiaries serviced. Qualitative form could include (1) a food assessment questionnaire and (2) brief interviews with parents of children in the control group.
Since SNAP is a federal program, it would be the responsibility of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service to collect data. An approach to this task might be to involve students enrolled in agricultural programs in federally funded universities, in return for credit hours. Access to federal databases should provide the basic statistics needed for quantitative assessment. Questionnaires could be mailed and interviews conducted by phone.
The primary metric evaluation pertinent to this policy-program is performance evaluation. The relevant data would be the questionnaires and interviews which would provide real-time feedback of the impact of SNAP on eliminating hunger among children in the U.S. The secondary evaluation format is the logic model metric. While the numerical data and graphing would support the food policy which produced SNAP, the sheer fact that it is still in operation logically supports its validity
Food policy in the U.S. is effective, in general, and SNAP is effective in particular. As of 2013, it had more than 47 million beneficiaries in 23 million low-income homes. About seventy-two percent of the homes house children. Policymakers consider SNAP to be fulfilling its purpose to eliminate hunger because of its broad reach. Its efficiency is rated as high by maintaining a seventy-five percent rate of individuals served in a typical month and because it maintains a strict quality control system conducive to excellent payment accuracy (Rosenbaum, 2013).
The formulation of food policy and the specific programs that it incepts teach us of the necessity of meeting the needs of the citizens who both fund and benefit from such policy. Government agencies and private organizations have an inherent responsibility to the populace. In the case of food policy, public welfare is directly impacted by the reduction of hunger and even starvation. Policies should be viable and realistic, born out of a discernible and credible need, and they should be formulated and managed responsibly.
- A closer look at mandatory spending. (2012). Congressional Budget Office. Retrieved February 26, 2016 from http://www.cbo.gov
- FSIS history. (2012) USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service. Retrieved February 26, 2016 from www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/informationl/aboutfsis/history
- Rosenbaum, D. (2013). SNAP is effective and efficient. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Retrieved February 26, 2016 from http://www.cbpp.org/research/snap-is-effective
- What is food policy? (2011). State and Local Food Policy Councils. Drake University. Retrieved February 26, 2016 from http://www.drake.edu/cbpa