This isn’t my normal nutrition post but I just had to share my DC adventures since they were so inspiring and made me get psyched about my electoral voice!
Two weeks ago today, I had my first visit to “The Hill” in Washington, DC as I was awarded a stipend to travel to DC for PPW 2012 by the Bay Area Dietetics Association (BADA) board, on which I sit as a Community Co-Chair. The “Public Policy Workshop” (PPW) is a yearly event put on by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetics Association) in conjunction with their full time public policy Washington staff and dietitian representatives from all 50 states.
The workshop consisted of two FULL days of training where we learned everything from your “elevator pitch” (who are you and what you want in 1 minute), the ins-and-outs of having a voice in politics (and various levels and ways to do so) and the importance of wearing patriotic socks (might pass on that one) to important issues around government spending priorities (prevention is a big buzz word finally) and how First Lady Michelle Obama has inspired and supported cities like Austin and New York to start “Lets’ Move” campaigns.
The third day, a Tuesday morning, we went to the hill and with RD’s from our region (Go California!) pitched our support for two of the four pieces of legislature that were our given priorities:
1) The Farm Bill (or “The Food, Farm, and Jobs Bill” as Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsak urged us to call it in his Keynote address)- and ensuring that the SNAP (food stamp program) and SNAP-ED (Nutrition education) programs are funded adequately as well as Agricultural/Nutrition research, the TEFAP program (food banks), the commodity food program ( CSFP– remember those cans of peanut butter at school or camp?), the Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Program (FFVP) at schools and the Senior Farmer’s Market program (cool!). Key message here was empowering consumers with nutrition education (!) and ensuring access to healthy safe foods.
2) The Older Americans Act (OAA)- pass this bill currently stalled in Congress (and develop a bill for the House) and include language that supports having nutrition professionals (RD’s) at all levels (local, state, federal) of the “aging network” to ensure cost-effective nutrition services and evidence-based results.
3) Prevention Diabetes in Medicare Act (H.R. 2741)- support or sponsor this bill to cover lifestyle intervention that include dietary changes (that’s my job) by RD’s for Medicare recipients who have pre-diabetes (vs only those with WITH diabetes as that and CKD are currently the only diagnoses covered by Medicare). Almost 1 in 10 have Diabetes but almost 4 in 10 have pre-diabetes. Studies show that 50-70% of Medicare participants with pre-diabetes can avoid diabetes with lifestyle interventions.
4) Drug Shortage Prevention Act (H.R. 3839)- support this bill as well as H.R. 2245 and Senate bill S 296 to help curtail and prevent the drug shortage phenomena that has been taking place more frequently since 2012 and puts patients across this nation at risk. RD’s, pharmacists and doctors are all unable to do their jobs fully when drugs, vitamins and minerals are taken off the market or under-produced due to low profit margins or other reasons.
Coming off my three meetings with Congresswoman Barbara Lee (I met with her people all alone!), Senator Diane Feinstein, and Senator Barbara Boxer, I felt powerful and that my voice was heard, our opinions mattered. What a great feeling. Later that evening I even got an email from the young man I met with at Lee’s office, letting me know she would support one of the bills I spoke especially passionately about (#3 above)- awesome!
Want to feel heard?
If you are a Dietitian, you can speak up around these issues and/0r others that you feel passionate about. A great resource is the Grass Roots Manager section of the eatright.org website , or join and get involved with the Political Action Commitee (ANDPAC).
Just a regular joe? Check out House.gov to find/write your representatives or go to the user-friendly gov.track.us or the dense Library of Congress Thomas site to follow a specific bill or see what is being voted on this week…
Thanks for listening! And yes– I did have a fun Vegan shawarma sandwich while in DC, check out a recipe here… Now go be a voice yourself…