Food Policy in Four Parts: An Introduction

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For most, choosing what to eat seems as simple an affair as browsing the grocery store aisles. But in reality, there is an incredibly complex—and some might argue supremely ineffective—system governing what gets put before us and how it came to be.

food-policy-intro-postThis series has been a long time coming for me. Years ago, as I set about on my dual quest to learn more about agriculture and health, the relationship between the two became impossible to avoid. Yet linking them is a knotted rope of policy and politics that can stymie rather than support momentum towards a healthy environment, vibrant communities and nourished people.

The bottom line is three-fold:

  • Everything about our food system—and by food system I mean how food is conceived, grown, distributed, marketed and consumed—is interconnected, although most often those connections are not planned out very wisely or even deliberately.
  • We are at a crossroads. There is unprecedented opportunity for groundbreaking policy change; there is also the choice to continue down the path we’re currently on. The decision is ours to make.
  • As individuals, we have more power than we think to affect positive change when it comes to our food system. Marion Nestle, nutritionist and food policy activist, says that we need to vote both with our forks and at the ballot box. AG Kawamura, Secretary of California Department of Food and Agriculture, points out that to do that, we must first be educated about what we’re voting for.

And that is what this series on food policy is meant to be; a straightforward education on the primary pieces that make up our food system, and a needle to stitch them all together.

Watch for more in the coming weeks.

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Oven-Baked Polenta with Slow-Roasted Tomatoes

Years ago, during a class at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone, I made a polenta recipe by Gary Danko that cooked–fuss-free–in the oven. I adopted it and have never looked back (or slaved over another pot of polenta). This one incorporates No Work Slow Roasted Tomatoes (which live in my freezer over the winter). Go for good-quality polenta instead of the instant variety; the texture and taste will be immeasurably better (and there’s no stirring for you anyway!).

Oven-Baked Polenta with Slow-Roasted Tomatoes


Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 55 minutes

Yield: Serves 8

Oven-Baked Polenta with Slow-Roasted Tomatoes


  1. 3 cups water
  2. 3 cups vegetable OR chicken broth
  3. 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  4. 1 cup finely chopped onion
  5. 1-1/2 cups polenta
  6. Sea salt
  7. 1 cup No Work Slow Roasted Tomatoes, chopped


Preheat oven to 350 F.

Combine water and broth in a saucepan, and bring to a boil.

Heat olive oil in a medium pot over medium heat and saute onion for 5-7 minutes, until translucent and just starting to color. Add polenta and stir to coat the grains.

Pour in liquid and whisk constantly until the polenta comes together, about 30 seconds. Stir in a generous pinch of salt and the tomatoes, and whisk to mix.

Transfer to the oven and bake for 40 minutes, or until all liquid is absorbed. Serve immediately as soft polenta, or pour into an oiled pan and let cool for firm polenta.