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A Food Systems Approach To Healthy Food And Agriculture Policy

November 01, 2015
Health Affairs

Roni A. Neff, Kathleen Merrigan and David Wallinga

Food has become a prominent focus of US public health policy. The emphasis has been almost exclusively on what Americans eat, not what is grown or how it is grown. A field of research, policy, and practice activities addresses the food-health-agriculture nexus, yet the work is still often considered “alternative” to the mainstream. This article outlines the diverse ways in which agriculture affects public health. It then describes three policy issues: farm-to-school programming, sustainability recommendations in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and antibiotic use in animal agriculture. These issues illustrate the progress, challenges, and public health benefits of taking a food systems approach that brings together the food, agriculture, and public health fields.