Saturday, October 11, 2008

Food Is A Political Issue

This weekend's issue of the NY Times Magazine focuses on food and agriculture and why it is so critical that it should be one of the issue's discussed by the presidential candidates.

They are calling it "The Food Issue" and say that: "International food prices spiked almost 40 percent last year, indicating that the monetary price is finally catching up with the true costs of cheap food: obesity in the U.S., malnutrition in developing countries and environmental degradation everywhere. This issue is devoted to these problems and some possible solutions, many of them sprinkled throughout the essays and reports."

One of the most powerful and informative of these essays is the one written by Michael Pollan, noted UC Berkeley professor and author, his newest book is In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto. It's called Farmer in Chief, here's the link

Its very long but important and the gist of it is that the next president will have to deal with our food system and the issue of food. As Pollan says, "But with a suddenness that has taken us all by surprise, the era of cheap and abundant food appears to be drawing to a close. What this means is that you, like so many other leaders through history, will find yourself confronting the fact — so easy to overlook these past few years — that the health of a nation’s food system is a critical issue of national security. Food is about to demand your attention."

And, he says that the food issue is related to issues that they are campaigning on: health care, energy independence and climate change. For example, how the food industry uses more fossil fuel than anything except our individual cars. But he says, the good news is that now it seems it is the time for big changes in the food system to be possible.

The way to do this: "We need to wean the American food system off its heavy 20th-century diet of fossil fuel and put it back on a diet of contemporary sunshine."

As Pollan says: "Since enhancing the prestige of farming as an occupation is critical to developing the sun-based regional agriculture we need, the White House should appoint, in addition to a White House chef, a White House farmer. This new post would be charged with implementing what could turn out to be your most symbolically resonant step in building a new American food culture. And that is this: tear out five prime south-facing acres of the White House lawn and plant in their place an organic fruit and vegetable garden.
When Eleanor Roosevelt did something similar in 1943, she helped start a Victory Garden movement that ended up making a substantial contribution to feeding the nation in wartime. (Less well known is the fact that Roosevelt planted this garden over the objections of the U.S.D.A., which feared home gardening would hurt the American food industry.) By the end of the war, more than 20 million home gardens were supplying 40 percent of the produce consumed in America. The president should throw his support behind a new Victory Garden movement, this one seeking “victory” over three critical challenges we face today: high food prices, poor diets and a sedentary population."

There is a group that has been advocating for this and is led by Kitchen Garden International creator Roger Doiron, they are calling their project, Eat The View. Check out their site here and sign the petition to get a Victory Garden put at the White House

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