Food Issues Book Club - Weighing In, Concluding Thoughts

Hello all!  Welcome to the NOiG Food Issues Book Club, wherein I read books about food stuff, summarize each book by chapter, and then attempt to apply that book chapter's ideas to the New Orleans food environment and my own experiences.  Fun right?!  Check out previous installations here.  I'd love it if you'd read along and join in!  And now, without further ado...

Weighing In, Concluding Thoughts

I wish I could make every human being in the country read this book.  Saving that, I wish I could make every vegan, every food justice advocate, every doctor, and every fat shamer read this book.  And saving that, I wish I could make everyone I know read this book.  Please, please, please read this book!  It is so important that the discussions around health, obesity, and personal responsibility be reframed, and this book provides a crucial jumping-off place on why and how.  It has challenged me to rethink my assumptions and examine food and fatness through a different lens, and in that way has literally changed my life.  I will likely read it again when I once again have free reading time!

Read Weighing In: Obesity, Food Justice, and the Limits of Capitalism by Julie Guthman to make the world a better place.  Yes, seriously.


NOiG's Guide to the 2015 Louisiana Legislature!

Hi friends!  I monitor the Louisiana Legislature's annual sessions for my jobby-job, and as such I tend to notice things that have implications in the food world and in broader social justice issues.  This is my effort to share with y'all what I have found, and to encourage you to raise your voices to support or oppose various efforts.  Hope you find it useful!  I would love to hear any feedback on whether I could present this differently to make it more accessible.

A few notes:
  • Pre-filing for bills ended Friday, April 3rd; the legislative session began on Monday April 13th.  Once a bill gets rolling through floor and committee votes it can proceed very quickly. So if you want to act, don't delay!
  • To support a bill, you can contact the legislators for whom you are a constituent - and encourage your community do the same - asking them to vote "yes" on the bill.
  • To oppose a bill, contact the legislator who proposed it and ask that it be withdrawn or amended - and encourage your community to do the same.  Also ask your legislators (as explained above) to question the measure in committee and to vote "no" if it's up for a vote.
  • If / when you contact Senators and Representatives to support or oppose bills, be firm but don't be a jerk.  If you behave like a jerk, not only will you not be listened to, you will associate the issue / stance you care about with jerk-ness, tainting the well for us all.  Be firm but respectful.
  • Putting pen to paper is rare these days, and as such may yield greater results than sending an email.  I suggest that if you want to commit your stance to writing, you do it both electronically and physically.
  • Don't take my word for it.  If there is an issue here that you find compelling and you want to speak up about it, take the time to read the bill and look it up for yourself before taking action.
  • Find all of the bills, contact info, committee schedules, and all the rest of it at the Louisiana Legislature web site.
And now, without further ado: this year's bills of interest!  (Clicking on the bill number will take you to the La Leg page for that bill and show you what has happened with it so far, and what its next step is.)

SNAP/FOOD STAMPS:  Provides for continuance of nutrition assistance for certain retirees

This bill aims to close one of the many, many loopholes in our SNAP program that causes people to lose help that they desperately need.  Specifically addressed here is the fact that retirees sometimes lose SNAP benefits because of cost-of-living increases that come from their retirement benefits - over which they of course have no control.  The bill aims to ensure that retirees don't end up with less money to support themselves as a result of such an increase.

Rep. Patrick Jefferson
(318) 927-2519
(318) 927-6564 (Fax)

700 N. Main Street
Homer, LA 71040

P. Williams
SCHOOLS/FOOD PROGRAMS:  Requires the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to promulgate rules relative to requirements for student lunch time

This bill requires the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) to make rules to ensure that all public school students have a full 20 minutes of seated time during which to eat their lunches.  It seems absurd to me that this needs to be legislated, but apparently there are many charter schools that allow 30 minutes total for lunch time.  When kids have to get to the lunch room, get their lunches, and sit down, that can easily mean less than 20 minutes to eat.  Eating is such a crucial part of kids being able to be engaged in learning, and for poor kids school meals can be the only meals they get all day.  Let's support the hell out of this bill.

Rep. Patrick Williams
larep004@legis.la.gov (318) 676-5990
(318) 676-5992 (Fax)

1500 N. Market Street
Suite A-200
Shreveport, LA 71107

TAX CREDITS:  Establishes a tax credit for qualified businesses that sell fresh food in an area designated as a food desert

While this feeds into the (frequently flawed) dominant paradigm of ideas around eating, health, food education, and food availability, at the end of the day more access to fresh food is a good thing.

Rep. Ebony Woodruff
(504)361-6971 (Fax)

1720 Stumpf Blvd.
Suite 200
Terrytown, LA 70056 

DISCRIMINATION:  Provides relative to discrimination

This bill aims to add language regarding gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, and other previously unprotected traits to existing anti-discrimination statutes.  YEP!

Rep. Austin J. Badon
(504)243-7785 (Fax)

5555 Bullard Avenue
Suite 101
New Orleans, LA 70128

St. Germain
DISCRIMINATION:  Provides with respect to discrimination regarding sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression

This bill would provide express protection against discrimination by employers based on gender identity or expression or on sexual orientation.  YEP!

Rep. Karen Gaudet St. Germain
(225)687-6272 (Fax)

57835 Plaquemine Street
Plaquemine, LA 70764

SCHOOLS/FOOD PROGRAMS:  Provides for the La. Farm to School Act

This bill is an effort to make it easier for Louisiana schools to source and purchase foods from local farmers.  Again, this bill is imperfect - implying that if kids could just have more fresh food at school they'd be completely healthy and their lives complete... not so.  And yet, having more fresh food at school is unarguably a good thing.

Rep. Ebony Woodruff
(504)361-6971 (Fax)

1720 Stumpf Blvd.
Suite 200
Terrytown, LA 70056

AGRICULTURE/BEEF:  Provides relative to assessments levied by the Louisiana Beef Industry Council

I'm including this one mostly so that y'all know that there is such a thing as the Louisiana Beef Industry Council, and see how it's organized.  (Hint: 100% industry shills.)  If there are any brilliant legislative minds in the audience who can figure out how to amend this bill to make the council less powerful / less existent, please share with the class!

That's all for now, folks.  This year is a "fiscal session," which means that each legislator can only bring five non-fiscal bills.  Believe it or not, this limits bill numbers quite substantially.  If you know of any other bills currently pending in Louisiana that you think should be of interest to this audience (other than the obviously horrific HB707, which Jindal has taken out of the people's hands), please let us know in a comment!  Also, if you're a Louisiana resident, please sign the petition to recall Jindal.