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Defining the Field of Food Policy

While a terrain of buzzwords exists related to food policy – food security, food sovereignty, food deserts, fast food, slow food and locavore just to name a few – the field itself is mostly a murky swampland. It is undefined, and currently lacks a solid foundation upon which to safely build.

The National Institutes of Health views food policy as a tool for responding to unstable food prices, yet the World Health Organization merges it with food insecurity without offering an explanation for food policy. Perhaps Tim Lang, David Barling, and Martin Caraher said it best in their book, Food Policy: Integrating health, environment and society, that “food policy is the pursuit of improved knowledge of how policy-making determines and responds to the food system”, but I’ll refer you to their entire chapter two to decipher what exactly that means.[1]If the officials and leading organizations cannot come to a common consensus, how should the general public understand this arena?

The problem is that the field of food policy has not yet been defined. Is the field aimed to address concerns over obesity? Diabetes? Nutrition? Lack of access to healthy food? Environmental issues in food production? Corporate conglomerates? Urbanization? Poverty? Justice? Inequality? Sure, food policy may touch upon all of these matters but in its current state it can only do so in a superficial way because food policy is too immense and vague. The field needs a common foundation, or rather, a mission that officials and global citizens alike can grasp and follow. By establishing this, we will have the proper jumping point needed to tackle the issues within the field.

Join the conversation and let IPS know what you think the mission is of food policy. Feel free to comment on this blog post, or email Agnes Balla at

Agnes Balla is a first year Master’s in Public Policy student at the Johns Hopkins Institute for Health and Social Policy.  She is a candidate for Masters in Public Policy. 

[1]Lang, T., Barling, D., and Caraher, M. Food Policy: Integrating health, environment and society. New York, NY: Oxford University Press 2009, Pg. 21. 

Come Visit the Library's New GIS Display Wall

Remember that GPML stands for Government Publications, Maps & Law? You don’t?  Now, you don’t have to because GPML has changed to GIS and Data Services. The new unit is on Level A (same area as GPML).  If you need government documents and law materials, they are still on Level A; my office remains on Level A as well. 

To celebrate this change, the long bare wall leading into the area is now called the GIS Display Wall.  Maps are professionally blown up and put into handsome stainless steel frames. The inaugural display features 3 maps, two created by IPS students, J.B. Wogan and Will Sankey, and one by the Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Center for a Livable Future.  


Student reflection on seminar: How should we approach nuclear weapons in the future?


What should be the future of our nuclear weapons policy? Should we seek a world in which nuclear weapons no longer exist or should we keep some weapons active for deterrence? Is "nuclear zero" even attainable? Does deterrence actually work? And how do we deal with non-state actors?


These are some of the questions addressed in last night's debate organized by the Alexander Hamilton Society between Hopkins Professor Daniel Deudney, who took the side of nuclear zero, and the Rand Corporation's Elbridge Colby, who took the side of nuclear deterrence. No matter which side of the debate you come down on, the discussion was likely to raise points and issues you hadn't thought of.


Op-Ed: Don't dismiss Occupy Baltimore

On first glance, it is easy to dismiss the participants of Occupy Baltimore as a jumbled bunch of hipsters, anarchists, and college kids with too much time on their hands. True, their objectives are at times incoherent and the group has no leadership, but if you ask the protestors themselves, this ideological inconsistency is exactly the point; they are here because they want to be, and they don’t really care what you or I think about it.


What Dr. Alonso's ed reform talk meant

[Editor's Note: IPS Blogger Mary Nguyen '12 gives a firsthand account of the Baltimore City CEO's presentation on education reform and what stood out for her as a eduction policy student.]

On Sept. 21, I attended Baltimore City Schools CEO Dr. Andrés Alonso's presentation about education reform in Baltimore. His main message? Baltimore’s public schools can only go up.

Dr. Alonso began by giving the national context of education reform. He noted how just a promise of millions of dollars in the Race to the Top competition was enough to incentivize over 40 states to change their laws around accountability, charters, and teacher evaluations — even though only 10 states eventually won the money. This had prompted Maryland, for example, to update their data system two years ago to get personal student identifiers to measure value-added learning to gauge teacher effectiveness.


Supporting New Health IT Professionals in Addressing Challenges in Long-Term-Care Insurance

Over the course of my summer with the National Academy for Social Insurance, I began to wonder if emerging tools in health information technology (IT) could be applied to problems facing long-term-care insurance. Among all of the hotly contested features of the Affordable Care Act, one issue seems insurmountable — how to finance an affordable long-term-care insurance plan. At the crux of the debate is how to increase revenue or lower health delivery costs enough to offset the often large expenses associated with long-term illness.


Field research in Costa Rica and the giant, dexterous, imperturbable leatherback turtle

Last winter, for the second time in two years, I volunteered with the Leatherback Trust, an organization dedicated to saving leatherback sea turtles. I had just finished my first semester of graduate school, six months of theory, classroom-based learning, and case studies. Albeit brief, time in the field with my human and animal friends in Guanacaste, Costa Rica, was crucial in reminding me of the on-the-ground work needed to achieve environmental conservation.


Vermont Poised to Enact America’s First Single-Payer Health Care System

With limited mainstream press coverage outside of New England, legislation to authorize and enact the nation’s first single-payer health care system by 2014 is currently moving through the Vermont state legislature.  The system was designed in consultation with Dr. William Hsiao of the Harvard School of Public Health, who also helped to develop single payer systems in Taiwan and China. Vermont’s single payer plan is intended to provide universal coverage for all state citizens. It aims to reduce spending through state centralization of health care administration, as well as economic incentives to align physician service provision with patient outcomes rather than numbers of services provided. Private insurance companies would bid against one another to offer health care services under state guidelines.


Towards a More Perfect Union: The Case for Collective Bargaining

In a political landscape increasingly dominated by wealthy interests, labor unions are one of the few institutions left that advocate for the economic security of middle and working-class Americans. Rising income inequality, stagnating wages, and record unemployment are not immutable facts of nature, or the workings of a “free market,” but rather the direct consequences of official economic policy. Crafting the policy solutions necessary to combat our economic malaise and rebuild the middle class is not difficult; constructing the political movement required for their implementation is exceedingly so. A revitalized labor movement, however, can provide the political foundation upon which to check the interests of corporate power and promote an economy that creates prosperity for all.


Tulips, Windmills, and Healthcare Reform: How the Dutch will Solve the Deficit

The following is second year MPP student Sean Aten's response to Joseph Berger's blog post on the federal deficit.

I’m glad to see that my opponent and I can agree on many points of contention.  However, I take issue with a number of his statements. 

“The Deficit Commission report is important to coming policy debates because it manages to present a balanced solution to deficit reduction and program maintenance.”

The Bowles-Simpson plan is as balanced as Fox News.  As my friend has suggested, the proposal is heavily skewed toward program cuts.  Over 75 percent of the proposed policy savings through 2015, and 69 percent through 2020, are achieved through budget cuts.  While only accounting for 5 percent of GDP, a full 20 percent of the Bowles-Simpson deficit reductions derive from cuts in non-defense discretionary programs.  How are legislators supposed to reduce real funding for discretionary programs by more than one-fifth without severely affecting programs on which millions of Americans rely?  A ‘balanced solution’ would come much closer to a 50-50 split between raising revenue and spending cuts.    


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