Food and politics have always been intertwined. But never before has food been at the center of the political sphere like it is now in Washington, D.C. That's partially due to the many policy issues currently being considered that involve the production and consumption of food—from climate change and school lunch to food safety and health care reform. But the visibility is also due to a commitment by the First Family to bring food and farm issues into their public lives and, therefore, into our lives.
For the first time since Eleanor Roosevelt's WWII Victory Garden, we have a garden on the White House lawn. Mrs. Obama's garden has produced nearly 1,000 pounds of food this year, supplying fresh food to local soup kitchens and learning experiences to schoolchildren from all over the country.
Did you know that in addition to the White House garden, there's a White House beehive (the first in history), and a lucky guy, Charlie Brandt, who has the title of First Beekeeper, or The Honeymaker of the United States. Check out this audio slideshow to learn more, including why Charlie has to inform the Secret Service before he harvests honey!
I've read and heard hundreds of debates on the merits of these projects—heated arguments about whether the administration truly cares about these issues and is committed to create real change for farmers and eaters or whether it's all just a publicity stunt. I suppose we'll continue to wait and see. But in the meantime you can't deny that the Obamas have succeeded in bringing food and farming into our culture, into our living rooms (The White House Garden and the First Lady will make an appearance on the Food Network on January 3, 2010, and around—if not on!—our dinner tables.
There are many opportunities for the President, and all of Washington, to demonstrate their commitment to agriculture beyond growing and beekeeping. From the ongoing dairy crisis to climate change and childhood nutrition, Washington will continue to be an important center for food and farm issues, even after the First Garden is turned over for winter.