We’ve been in Portland for almost 4 weeks now and are quickly approaching the half-way point. We all agree that it’s going by very quickly. Having been here long enough to feel comfortable has engaged us more in our placements as we really start to get into the thick of our work. My time at the Crag Law Center has already resulted in the completion of a number of projects including website updates, working on a manuscript for a book on Oregon’s land use laws, and completing a comment letter on a proposed dam that would disrupt fish habitat in Southern Oregon. It feels good to be in full swing.
As our 2 week vegetarian experiment continues, we’ve gotten comfortable eating out and cooking for ourselves while avoiding meat. Though many in the group expressed some degree of initial apprehension at the idea of abandoning the likes of cheeseburgers, chicken parmesan, and (most importantly) bacon, we’re adapting quickly. Especially in Portland, finding good vegetarian food isn’t hard, and that’s good news for a group that loves to eat. Better yet, we’ve been successful: if anyone’s cheated, I don’t know about it. Tonight we’ll even test our veggie fueled enthusiasm with dinner at an all-vegan, raw food restaurant.
Last Wednesday, our fascination with food brought us appropriately to a food policy meeting to try and learn what about food goes on at the regional government level. From what we gathered in our meeting, sometimes it’s not much. You see, the local food policy group is at a crossroads, stuck between a successful past that focused on making food policy a noticeable regional issue and a future that lacks clear direction. Unfortunately for us, our short exposure to the working group included this more strategic discussion concerning the role of the group and didn’t really include much about food policy directly. Nevertheless we managed to gain important insight about what the role of the group has been in the past, and about how policy decision are made (and why policy takes so long!).
In spite of our underwhelming exposure we continued our discussion on food policy at the scenic Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood on Saturday. Through various examples we discussed the relevance of food policy in almost every aspect of modern life. Food subsidies affect how many crops are grown for which purpose, food stamps and benefits provide meals to the underprivileged, and healthy eating campaigns aim to better our health care and society. What I think we gained was a more thorough appreciation for the pervasiveness and interconnectedness of food in our lives. While it’s not usually a national hot-button issue, food policy ripples through almost every sector of modern society.
We transitioned into discussing possible suggestions for changes and the potential benefits that might be associated with those changes. An amped up and healthier school lunch policy might lower the cost of health care and provide more consistent benefits for the underprivileged, a shift in food subsidies might encourage more local growers and fewer large-scale industrial farms, and even reducing the amount of meat we consume as a society could have lasting beneficial outcomes. Working in a law firm, it pays to see forest through the trees, and I think our discussion helped us put all of our own smaller projects and actions into a larger perspective. I hope our conclusions reflect some of those revelations, even if those include the formerly heretical idea that eating less bacon is probably a good idea.