3 Things I’ve Learned After a Year of Advocacy Work at Balanced
Working in nutrition advocacy, it is often tempting to focus on all the problems with our food system that have yet to be solved. As with any kind of advocacy work, it seems there is always so much work left to do. But as we wrap up 2018 and begin setting goals for the upcoming year, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on 3 things I’ve learned over the past year of my work as Advocacy Coordinator at Balanced.
Progress is not linear
Just recently, Balanced celebrated a victory related to the D.C. Council’s approval of the Healthy Students Amendment Act - a huge win for students in D.C. Public Schools. Very soon after, the USDA announced its decision to loosen school nutrition standards to allow higher amounts of sodium, flavored milks, and refined grains on school lunch menus. Those two events occurred in the same week.
Sometimes it feels like we’re taking two steps forward and one step back, but we have to remember that progress is progress. The D.C Public Schools victory will affect nearly 50,000 students’ lunch menus every day, and being that no other state has (yet) adopted this type of mandate, we are confident it is only the beginning, and it paves the way for other school districts to follow suit. While the USDA changes are incredibly frustrating and disheartening, it only makes our work more urgent.
It is crucial to remember that almost every social justice movement in history has taken decades, if not longer, to realize substantial change.
In the scheme of things, this movement of nutrition advocacy is just getting started. Progress is a series of little challenges, resulting in small and big victories. The setbacks that happen along the way are merely part of the process.
Advocacy campaigns are uncomfortable, but so worth it.
As someone whose natural inclination has always been to stay quiet and avoid causing a disruption, learning to push past the inevitable discomfort of advocacy campaigning has been a major challenge for me over the last year. I’ve had to remind myself that asking food-serving institutions to simply feed our loved ones fewer disease-causing foods is not an outrageous ask. In fact, it's outrageous we even have to ask for that to begin with!
While it may never be easy, it will be worth it every time.
Decision makers need to hear from YOU.
In Balanced’s first few months as an organization, after focusing the majority of our efforts on corporate campaigning, we learned that no one knows your community as well as you do.
Real change comes when everyday people -- people with loved ones’ whose health is directly affected by the foods served by institutions -- step up and demand change.
That’s why we can’t do this work without advocates like you. If you’re a parent, a student, or a community member, you have everything it takes to bring about massive change in your community. If you’d like to get started working towards healthier menus in your local institutions - with the complete support of the Balanced Advocacy Team - sign up to get started.
Sarah is the Advocacy Coordinator at Balanced. Driven by her belief that health depends on a food system that cares about people, she is passionate about helping community advocates lead effective healthy-menu campaigns in schools, hospitals, and other critical institutions. You can reach her here: firstname.lastname@example.org