Obama Tucks In via Getty Images
Sustainable food and agriculture watchers have been on a roller coaster ride ever since Barack Obama was given the nod by the American people. Soon after the election there were hopeful, if misguided, calls for Michael Pollan to be named head of the USDA and people were giddy at the idea that Obama had read Pollan's open letter to the next president. The excitement was muted with the appointment of Tom Vilsack as the USDA head. Vilsack is seen by many as part of the old boy's network that props up industrial agriculture interests at the expense of a truly healthy and sustainable food system. As the dust settles and the ride stops, there is reason to hope that a nation of healthy eaters will emerge in more subtle ways.
Read on for a taste of change. MD Julie Upton has identified 4 Ways Barack Obama Can Change the Way Our Country Eats. Upton's four points include anticipated support for local, organic farms, food-assistance programs being re-visioned to focus on healthier food, less bureaucratic food safety policy, and a focus on school nutrition. While these possible policy directions have not had time to be implemented, much less produce results, it's perhaps the Obama's personal example that will inspire America to choose their food wisely. Upton writes:
...I think it's just something that the most watched man in the world is now one of the fittest presidents of modern times: He's talked openly about his struggle to quit smoking, plays basketball with his personal assistant every morning, and is reportedly a big fan of pistachios, protein bars, tea, broccoli, spinach, and shrimp. I hope that over the next four years, we'll see a lot more of those healthy decisions, both in his personal life and in his policies.
Earlier this week the Obama's took another step in leading the country to a healthier lifestyle by bringing their personal chef, Sam Kass, from Chicago to the White House. The importance of this comes from Kass's philosophy around food. The NYT reports:
Mr. Kass, one of the new breed of chefs who are concerned about the environment and about poor eating habits in this country, has been quoted as saying people in his profession should take the lead in tackling public health issues. "Not only is there an unconscionable amount of people who remain hungry," he told "In These Times" magazine last year, said, "there's even a larger population, mostly poor, who are faced with obesity, diabetes and various other problems from overabundance."
Having a chef in the White House that understands the issues connecting food, agriculture, health and the environment can only be a good thing. Let's hope that the daily reminder of healthy, sustainably sourced food will be reflected in progressive policies to create a more sustainable food system for all Americans.
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