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The Politics of Food: How the American Government Contributes to Public Health

So many messages reach children and the adults responsible for them through mass media and so few of these messages support better public health. While the American government funds scientific research to inform its policy decisions for health and food programs, the regulation of these public health laws are marred by special interest groups concerned with their bottom lines. The role of the federal government to help its citizens is constantly under attack by the capitalist machine. How can students be expected to become conscientious political beings if they are disenchanted by or uninformed about the relationship between the government and capitalists in regulating their health?

This unit asks students to understand the process whereby a bill becomes a law, including all of the messy revisions of bills to reflect the interests of political action committees (PACs) and congressional constituents. It also highlights the methods for and motivations behind analyzing scientific evidence to inform lawmaking, and converting that analysis into the implementation of public health recommendations at the federal government level.

Many age groups of students could be reached with this unit, but the content lends itself to older students with knowledge of government processes or as a companion to teaching government processes. Terms such as “lobbyist”, “policy”, and “legislation” will be used frequently and government agencies such as the USDA and FDA will play a role as large as the legislative branch of the government. Methods such as debate, critical analysis of text and filmed discussion/debate, and observational surveys and analyses will be employed to better comprehend the concepts explored in this unit. Considering all of this, the recommended age group for this unit would be 11th grade United States History, 12th Grade American Government, or a mature/advanced group of 8th Grade United States History students.

Meagan C. Rubino
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