At Friedman, students don’t just talk the talk. The Friedman Food Policy Action Council (FFPAC) allows students to hear directly from political officials and activists, and to effect actual policy change. Ayten Salahi, a co-founder of the FFPAC recaps what the group accomplished last school year and encourages you to join them this year.
Hello and welcome back from what we hope was a restful and reinvigorating summer! We are the Friedman Food Policy Action Council (FFPAC), and whether you are an incoming or returning student, a lifelong activist or new to policy, we cannot wait for you to join us in amplifying the voice of food justice, equitable nutrition, and sustainable agriculture to our elected officials.
We’re thrilled to see so many new faces around campus, and we thought we’d introduce ourselves and explain what we’re all about.
FFPAC equips Friedman students with the tools and relationships needed to impact policy through advocacy. Our ultimate aim is to mobilize the brilliant Friedman community to advance evidence-based nutrition and agricultural policies in support of public and environmental health.
Here is what FFPAC has accomplished in our very first year at Friedman:
In November 2017, we took our first trip to the Massachusetts State House, where we met with Senator Jamie Eldridge to discuss how mandatory food insecurity screenings and prescription meal programs could be incorporated into a proposed single-payer costing analysis in MA (S.2202). This would improve the health of MA citizens, lower healthcare costs, and lower the tax burdens of MA residents.
We held our inaugural plenary meeting in February 2018, with a surprise visit from Congressman Jim McGovern, Dean Dariush Mozaffarian, and Professor Jerry Mande. During this meeting, Congressman McGovern expressed his appreciation for FFPAC’s initiative to get involved in advocacy, noting, “academia doesn’t always translate into activism.” When an FFPAC member requested words of wisdom for students looking to get involved in political action, McGovern chuckled about the current political environment. “This is the toughest year you could have picked to get started, but that’s why it’s so incredibly important.” In his closing remarks, Congressman McGovern issued a call to action for the Friedman community that resounds with FFPAC’s mission: to keep our fingers on the pulse of issues related to food justice and nutrition, to liaise with our representatives, and to demand transparency from our elected officials. He closed with a reminder: “Your representatives work for you, not the other way around.”
We took his words to heart. A matter of weeks after Congressman McGovern’s visit, several FFPAC members agreed to participate in a Boston Food Is Medicine listening session, hosted by Community Servings and Harvard’s Center for Health Law and Policy Innovations. The initiative was established to kick off the formation of a Massachusetts Food Is Medicine State Plan. The ultimate aim is to create policy that will scale and fund medically-tailored, nutritional interventions across the state. FFPAC remains involved in the development of this plan.
Later in March, FFPAC invited author and food activist Andy Fischer for a lunch talk. He shared with us the purpose behind his latest book, Big Hunger, as well as how we could help foster a better domestic anti-hunger policy.
We also organized advocacy mentorship seminars with Scott Carter, the Chief of FNS’s Office of Government Affairs at the USDA, and several of Friedman’s very own esteemed professors— including members of the Bipartisan Food is Medicine Working Group, Professors Jerry Mande and Norbert Wilson.
Beyond meetings, seminars, and listening sessions, we stayed actively engaged to protest against potentially dangerous policy changes. 2017 was a daunting year in the food justice realm. Abounding threats arose against the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Dietary Guidelines for Americans, Massachusetts Healthy Incentives Program (HIP), and many other policies. FFPAC members rose to the occasion. We organized calling campaigns, thunderclaps, and lobby visits at the State House, drafted policy memos to protect and expand HIP funding, coordinated with both local and national anti-hunger agencies to protect SNAP, and submitted thorough comments to maintain the scientific integrity of the US Dietary Guidelines—all while continuing to maintain a watchful eye on food-related legislation. One of our founding members, Alana Davidson, delivered a live testimony to the Joint Committee on Education in Massachusetts in support of two bills that banned lunch-shaming practices in MA – during finals week!
And that was just year one.
We are so proud of the engagement that the FFPAC community represents. In our second year, we hope to continue growing in membership, action, and outreach. If FFPAC’s mission and work resonate with you, please join us for our first plenary meeting of the academic year on FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 21 at 12PM, and shoot us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can keep you up to date with all things FFPAC. All are welcome and encouraged to join. We are thrilled for what this year holds in store for the Friedman community, and hope to see you very soon.
Ayten Salahi is a second-year FPAN student in the Tufts-Simmons MS/RD program and a co-founder of FFPAC. She is an RA for the Tufts Food Aid Quality Review (FAQR) and is pursuing dietetic practice in integrative nutrition and functional medicine (DIFM). Ayten came to Friedman after working as a molecular and clinical researcher in neuropharmacology and diabetes management for 8 years.