What do you get by mixing one part First Lady, another part food crisis, and a dash of spunk? According to Huffington Post writer Paula Crossfield, this is a recipe for an “official leader” of the U.S.’s food movement. Enter our very own Michelle Obama.
It started in the White House’s very own backyard. This March, the First Lady led a group of students in planting an organic garden, which would double as a symbol for home-grown food and source fresh vegetables and herbs for White House consumption. Some in the nation’s “good-food” movement are hailing Michelle Obama as their de facto leader; one blog accredits White House garden as “a masterpiece of non-verbal political messaging.” Whether intended or not, the garden symbolizes such traditional American values as self-sufficiency and frugality, not to mention promotes food security and biodiversity.
In a notable speech to a youth group at a recent White House Garden harvest, Mrs. Obama articulated that nutritious eating is critical in the fight against chronic illnesses such as obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. These diseases cost the country $120 billion each year, and nearly one third of U.S. children are “either overweight or obese,” she said. Even more shockingly, experts warn that for the first time in American history, current generations of youth may have shorter life-spans as a direct result of the obesity epidemic plaguing the nation. Additionally, a surfeit of low-income and other marginalized families nationwide lives in food deserts, where there is no access to adequate fresh food. The First Lady condemns these food deserts as “barrier[s]” to good health. However, the U.S. boasts 1,000,000 flourishing U.S. community gardens, many of which are found in low-income communities, said the President’s wife.
We should view the White House Kitchen Garden and accompanying speeches by the First Lady as foreshadows of greater efforts to combat system-wide problems such as an ailing nation, broken food system, and poor educational performance. Indeed, a nation cannot succeed economically, environmentally, or otherwise if its people are sick.