There are several ways you can begin to set in motion the processes of public policy. Here are some of the most important ways you, as a Registered Dietitian or other health professional, can start.
1. Build Coalitions:
Identify those affected by the proposed policy you are focusing on. Some examples often include local farms, public health offices, economic development groups, schools, government agencies, charities, food policy councils, major health organizations (i.e. American Heart Association), or social justice movements. Bringing these groups together to form alliances will make your voice much louder and, like they say, the squeaky wheel gets the grease! It is also helpful to have the person you are trying to reach (i.e. senator, governor, etc.) hear the same thing from different groups on multiple occasions.
2. Communicate with your Representatives:
Members of congress need to hear from the public clearly and often about emerging policies. They need to be made aware of how important the passing of these policies is to their citizens and how it will affect their communities. Again, the louder and the more often they hear this, the more effective. You, as a citizen of your city/state/country, are represented by those you elected (not necessarily voted for, but nonetheless, elected) and it is their duty to serve you. If they are experiencing a lot of commotion on a given issue, they are going to want to please the majority of those they are hearing from.
3. Create Outreach and Educational Opportunities:
Discuss with members of your community why these issues matter to them and how they will be impacted by them. You may find yourself surrounded by overwhelming support and a growing movement.
We’ve all heard this before and it holds true. If you don’t want to support the way something is prepared, processed, grown, or raised, then don’t buy it. Don’t be afraid to recommend more sustainable or ethical alternatives to your clients. You’re in a special position that gives you the opportunity to make small-scale changes at the very least.
5. Letters, Calls, Emails, Etc:
Regardless of what you may think, these things do matter! Your call might just be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Members of congress need to hear from a wide range of citizens to understand the magnitude of support or opposition.