While climate change rages ahead, the climate bill is flat on its back and the most progressive green on President Obama’s staff looks on the verge of being forced out of office for silly reasons. Let’s not talk about healthcare reform or Afghanistan.
But … there’s an organic veggie garden! On the White House lawn! And a video about it starring the First Lady! Normally, my cynic meter goes haywire over this kind of stuff. I’m allergic to government-produced videos, even ones that feature someone as appeallng as Michelle Obama. Power couple hires team of professional gardeners to plant opulent kitchen garden. Is that really news? But today, I’m biting. People a lot better connected than me swear that the First Lady is dead serious about transforming our dysfunctional, unjust, greenhouse-gas-spewing, downright dangerous food system. And they say she has real influence within the USDA. So, damn it, there’s hope!!!!!
And, there’s a very concrete opportunity for real change coming up. In the video, Ms. Obama talks about the critical need to give children access to fresh, healthy food. Our current school-food program, with its Tyson chicken nuggets and pancake-wrapped industrial sausages, does an abysmal job of that. School cafeterias have become just another profit center for Big Food–a place to train rising generations the appeal of reheated processed dreck. This month, The Child Nutrition Act, which governs the National School Lunch Program, comes up for reauthorization. What if, instead of serving as a way to line agribiz pockets and dispose of surplus commodities, the Act mandated that federal money for school lunches be used on healthy food and to support local and regional food systems?
Slow Food USA is spearheading a Time for Lunch Campaign to pressure Congress and the White House to transform school lunches. And this coming Labor Day, they’re staging “Eat Ins” in cities all across the country to agitate for that cause. Click off your TV–forget Glenn Beck and his slimy provocations. Take hope where you can get it: Get to the farmers market (or your garden), grab some nice ingredients, make something good to eat, and bring it to an Eat In in support of the kids ands their vittles. And while you’re at it, get involved with the farm-to-school movement.
During dark times, one way to avoid political despair is to do something concrete. That’s a big reason, I think, that the food movement gained so much force during Bush II’s reign. And food may now offer the best way to move the progressive agenda forward at a time of political stasis and noisy right-wing populism, with its chilling echoes of the 1930s.