Sakeenah Shabazz Talks Farm Bill and Food Policy in Edible Education 101

March 21, 2023
By Berkeley Food Institute

On March 8, BFI Policy Director Sakeenah Shabazz and former BFI Faculty Director Dr. Kristine Madsen spoke at UC Berkeley’s Edible Education series.

Dr. Madsen discussed her formative experience returning from the Peace Corps and being struck by the rampant overconsumption in the United States. She led a discussion on the link between American sugar consumption and colonization from a public health perspective, focusing on sugary beverages and how artificially low prices and targeted advertising act as drivers of consumption.

Sakeenah discussed her pathway to her work in food policy and her background in anti-hunger and anti-poverty research and advocacy in Washington, DC. She then provided a thorough primer on the 2023 Farm Bill. The Farm Bill, reauthorized every 5 years, is an omnibus package of “marker” bills sorted into 12 titles, ranging from Trade to Crop Insurance to Forestry. According to Sakeenah, a Farm Bill reauthorization year is akin to the Super Bowl for those immersed in food and agricultural policy.

Sakeenah then walked the audience through each of the 12 titles, describing their role and direct impact on our food system. Notably, she outlined what the Farm Bill doesn’t cover, such as crucial child nutrition programs or farm labor.

One of the challenges in passing the Farm Bill is the fiscal tab — Sakeenah explained how funds were broken down in the 2018 Farm Bill, and what that might mean for 2023. She also outlined the long and circuitous process of re-authorizing a Farm Bill and introduced the key players of the 2023 Farm Bill. 

The lecture concluded with a discussion between Sakeenah Shabazz and Dr. Madsen.