The Obamas have begun the ritual work of setting an example. This week Michelle, her daughters, and a group of local elementary school students pushed shovels into the dirt near the White House initiating what will hopefully become a flourishing vegetable garden. This is certainly not the fist time a garden has sprung up at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. The above photograph is the White House circa 1910 where a maze of greenhouses provided the first family fresh fruits and vegetables in a time before refrigeration and the fossil fuel based agricultural system. The ground breaking of the presidential veggie garden took place in the south lawn (appropriately located to maximize sunlight) and marks a shift at the helm redirecting the food culture of the United States.
The food philosopher Michael Pollan echoes Jamie Oliver as he outlines the importance of this shift in the following expert from an open letter to the president he authored last fall.
"Changing the food culture must begin with our children, and it must begin in the schools. Nearly a half-century ago, President Kennedy announced a national initiative to improve the physical fitness of American children. He did it by elevating the importance of physical education, pressing states to make it a requirement in public schools. We need to bring the same commitment to "edible education" -- in Alice Waters's phrase -- by making lunch, in all its dimensions, a mandatory part of the curriculum. On the premise that eating well is a critically important life skill, we need to teach all primary-school students the basics of growing and cooking food and then enjoying it at shared meals."The entire letter is online here.
By involving her daughters and children from the community Michelle Obama begins the process of developing social consciousness about food, nutrition, and stewardship.
To read more about the history of food gardens at the white house visit Mother Jones.