January 19, 2013 by kalnajja
I echo many of my fellow students when I say; the trip to DC was a whirlwind. The city’s pulse felt much different than others. Visiting the national mall, getting a tour of the capitol, and meeting folks who work on the hill made me feel a bit like a school girl. It brought me back to grade school when I last studied government structure and US history. But, let me regress, this was my first trip to DC…EVER. Growing up in Washington State with no relatives anywhere close to DC, it was never a destination for my family or me.
While it was a whirlwind, it was also a really beneficial experience. At first meeting the panelists was a bit intimidating, but after meeting more and more nutrition professionals, it dawned on me, these will soon be my peers. I soon will also be a nutrition professional with experience and a degree from UNC. What….very exciting!
While I may not work in DC or work directly to write federal nutrition policy, something we heard repeated quite a few times was the importance of advocacy in our field. While all Americans have a strong, unique relationship with food, most do not a have a strong relationship with agriculture, food distribution systems, grocery stores, or federal aid programs. And to that end, the masses cannot be counted on to advocate for more equitable food distribution systems or better foods in our schools (at least not until recently). But, as a nutrition professional, it is my responsibility to stand up for policy and legislation I believe will benefit the health, nutrition, and well being of the nation.
Another noteworthy key theme was the idea of bias. Political media often portrays groups of biased people either in a positive or negative light. You either have bias or you don’t. It is portrayed that people whose politics align develop the same biases. But, most of the panelists, seemed to agree that everyone has unique bias. Everyone in DC, whether you are a lobbyist, special interest group, non-profit, industry organization, elected official or journalist has bias.
And it is more complicated that it seems. No two people have the same bias. The circumstances of life and the journey that brought many to DC influence this personal bias. And as humans we act on that bias. After all we are only human. (Cue music) The take away for me here is re-learning the importance of knowing your audience. Knowing who you are talking to and caring about which life circumstances either lead them to support or reject certain ideas.
Overall, my favorite topics of the trip had to be Nutrition Education where we really discussed the similarities between Government and Big Business (Accountability & Shareholders) which are often misunderstood with folks from Let’s Move, USDA and a private public relations firm and International Nutrition where we heard about many of the new advances and investments made by the World Bank, PATH, USAID and the UN World Food Program to decrease hunger around the world.