December 30, 2008

What goes in Obama’s mouth may be as important as what comes out.

Rebecca Klein

Rebecca Klein

Program Officer, Food System Policy Program

Center for a Livable Future

Leaders in the sustainable agriculture community are not the only ones trying to bend the Obama Transition Team’s ear toward a healthy, sustainable food system (see blog post from 12/23/08). As a recent New York Times article pointed out, everyone from foodies to farmers , chefs to consumers, has high hopes for how Obama will address food issues.

Will there be a new White House chef who concentrates on using local organic ingredients? Will those ingredients come from food grown on the white house lawn? (Those from The Who Farm and Eat the View certainly hope so).  A White House organic garden or a First Family fed organic food would be highly visible symbolic gestures for broader policy changes-changes that could slow global warming, protect our national security and improve our population’s health. Michael Pollan’s open letter to the ‘Farmer in Chief ‘and a recent op-ed in the Christian Science Monitor discussed what some of these policy actions to should look like. (Both noted the importance of eliminating large scale industrial animal farming as we know it.) And, an op-ed in today’s Boston globe noted that Obama would do well to listen to such advice rather than succumb to agri-business pressure, displaying “the courage to defend what the likes of Michael Pollan have to say, without apology.”

Whether or not he breaks ground on the White House lawn, or decides to have an organic kitchen, Obama will have a chance early in his tenure to influence the way thousands of American children eat. The 2009 Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act (CNA) is due to be decided upon this coming fall. Many groups are pushing for mandatory funding that would support farm-to-school programs and stricter adherence to the Dietary Guidelines for all food available in the cafeteria, including a la carte foods, such as chips and sandwiches that are currently sold separately from the lunch line. Such actions could greatly improve the nutrition of our children, especially those from the lower-income brackets whose main source of food for the day often comes from school.  As the Washington Post recently noted, obesity occurs just as often, if not more, in those in need because they do not have access to nutritious food.

A president who eats well may inspire his citizens to follow suit, but they will only do so if they have the means to purchase these foods, the education to know which foods to buy, and the time and resources to prepare them.

One Comment

  1. Barack Obama’s book, “The Audacity of Hope,” has a catchy title. It has an idea of bravery mixed with confidence. You’ll find nothing Pollyanna about it. I may well not support almost everything he tells, but he’s our president, and then for me, he inspires belief. Which can do more for just a nation than any amount of backroom deals. Hope gives us energy, and energy sustains us through trying times. Boy, we’ve had them. I’m from West Texas, and I did not vote for Bush. When McCain ran against Obama, I was a citizen of Arizona, but I gave audacious hope a chance. The fight for progress and laying the foundations of prosperity will not be over. I have come across the quips of those that don’t think Obama is capable of it. But step back a moment. Would anyone have most of us fail only to tarnish the star of an incumbent for whom they did not vote? Attempting to keep our priorities straight, let’s work together with our president and build our future.

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