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The harvest was significant, considering the garden was small: 73 pounds of lettuce, 12 pounds of peas and one cucumber. But Salon has a good piece this morning about how it was the location of this garden – on the White House grounds – that could be planting some seeds about US food policy:

“Before President Barack Obama took office, the progressive food community was in such a frenzy expecting changes in the way Americans think about, grow, buy and eat their food that more than a dozen famous chefs threw a dinner party the night before his inauguration to celebrate. Obama had paid slightly more attention to food policy on the campaign trail than most other recent presidential nominees, pledging to help support small independent farmers, not massive corporate agribusinesses. Six months later, though, the garden is probably the most significant step the administration has taken toward the broad goals the campaign laid out last year. The Agriculture Department has only recently filled crucial positions dealing with policy, and what's likely to be the year's biggest showdown over food issues -- legislation in Congress to reauthorize the federal school lunch program -- looms later this summer … Activists say they hope Michelle Obama's events around the garden, aimed mostly at encouraging people to eat more healthful food than the processed junk that's often the cheapest and most plentiful, turn out just to be the vanguard of a busy agenda. And they say not to underestimate the symbolic power that the garden can have.”
KC's View:
As the Salon piece makes clear, the White House garden can’t change US food policy all by itself. And there’s even some question about how big a priority food policy is for an administration that already has a full plate.

But…it seems to me that this isn’t just about food policy. It also is about health care, since the consumption of a more nutritious diet cannot help but have an impact on how long and well people live, and how they access the health care system. And it is about environmental issues, since buying local also has an ecological impact.

We have to begin looking at these sorts of issues in a broader context, understanding that they all have an impact on each other. I don't think there is any simple approach to these issues…we all just have to try to do the best we can with what we’ve got. (Purists tend to be people of exceptional means and exceptional luck…and they forget that they breathe rarefied air.)

But there’s no question that food that is local and fresh generally tastes better than alternatives. Which is why a wide range of retailers are investing time and energy in looking for new sources of product…why there ought to be a far more sophisticated and intelligent approach to school lunch programs…and why a White House garden may be harvesting a lot more than lettuce, peas and a cucumber.