Lynsi Burton, a writer covering food, social justice, crime, and music, will be speaking at the Seattle Food Tank Summit, “Growing Food Policy,” which will be held in partnership with Environmental Working Group, Food Action, Garden-Raised Bounty (GRuB), the Natural Resources Defense Council, and Seattle University’s Center for Environmental Justice and Sustainability on March 17, 2018.
Based in Seattle, Burton writes for local publications SeattlePI, YES! Magazine, and Seattle Business Magazine on topics ranging from grassroots social justice movements to Seattle-area businesses. Burton’s favorite topics include exploring the impact of eating habits on the environment, public health, capitalism, and social justice.
As a passionate vegan, Burton is a recipe tester for Richa Hingle, a Seattle-based food blogger and cookbook author. Food Tank spoke with Burton about how her meat-free lifestyle and small, everyday choices can really make an impact.
Food Tank (FT): What originally inspired you to get involved in your work?
Lynsi Burton (LB): For my day job, I love to write and tell stories about hope to serve the public. Whether it’s where to find the best pho or how federal policies affect local domestic violence survivors, my calling is to illustrate Pacific Northwest life to readers.
When it comes to my obsession with food, I’ve loved cooking and playing with food since my Childhood, from pickling peppers in 4-H to baking blackberry pies with my parents. My transition to veganism five years ago began when I had to figure out how to live cheaply on a writers’ salary, which then blossomed into a passion for living according to my ethics as an environmentalist and animal lover.
FT: How are you helping to build a better food system?
LB: I believe my rejection of meat, dairy, and eggs, along with my consumption of plant-based foods, helps fuel the growing demand for healthy food that doesn’t require animal slaughter or deforestation. Animal agriculture requires a wasteful use of energy and land which could be better used to directly feed people.
FT: What’s the most pressing issue in food and agriculture that you’d like to see solved?
LB: Food waste! I love that the issue of food waste is gaining more attention. Food waste is an issue at every level of the food system from producers to home consumers. It would be great to see factories, retailers, restaurants, and home cooks learn to reduce waste by using food more creatively and efficiently. There are lots of great tips and recipes online for home cooks to utilize every bit of food.
FT: What innovations in food and agriculture are you most excited about?
LB: I am very excited about the burgeoning market for slaughter-free meat. It’s unrealistic to think that most people will quit meat, so if meat can be produced with minimal harm to living animals and the environment, I’m all for it. I’m excited to see what investments in clean meat will yield and how it will transform the market.
FT: What is one small change every person can make in their daily lives to make a big difference?
LB: There are so many little changes people can make that truly add up. In regards to food choices, start by occasionally replacing meat with a can of beans or any other alternative source of protein. Another easy change is consuming less dairy by opting for almond or nut-based milks.
FT: How can we make food policy more relevant to eaters so that the politicians representing them feel a mandate to act?
LB: The intersection of food policy and health care is already so incredibly relevant to eaters, but this connection is sometimes lost and needs to be made more explicit. Our healthcare system is ill-equipped to advise patients on nutrition in a general practice setting due to doctor training, time constraints, and profit motive. However, our diet-related diseases and consumption of drugs to treat those conditions are a glaring cry that healthy food must be made accessible for all. Rewarding doctors for health outcomes, not prescriptions written or tests ordered, would incentivize more holistic approaches. If we can head off diseases with healthy diet and lifestyle, many tests, surgeries, and drugs that bankrupt patients and leave us with a bloated health care system could be eliminated.
FT: What policy areas or ideas would you like to see an increased focus on as the 2018 Farm Bill negotiations kick off?
LB: The first policy area that requires an increased focus is the SNAP program. I would love to see a lowering or elimination of the work requirements for SNAP benefits. This would allow those people who are in need of assistance but just missed the cut to receive such assistance.
Another policy area that needs attention are the nutrition guidelines. I’d like to see scientifically sound nutrition guidelines that were formulated independently of industrial lobbying groups. Removing the influence of the agricultural industry on nutrition guidelines would provide more accurate guidelines.
A final area that needs an increased focus is young farmers. The 2018 Farm Bill should offer incentives for young farmers to replace the multitudes of aging and retiring farmers. Because the future of food production falls on emerging farmers, the 2018 Farm Bill should work to enhance interest in the agricultural field.