Just prior to last year’s presidential elections, Michael Pollan penned his now-famous open letter to the next President or, as Pollan would have it, our next “Farmer in Chief.” In the letter, Pollan neatly laid out the interconnectedness of food issues with all of the key campaign topics of the major candidates. He wrote:
[This] brings me to the deeper reason you will need not simply to address food prices but to make the reform of the entire food system one of the highest priorities of your administration: unless you do, you will not be able to make significant progress on the health care crisis, energy independence or climate change. Unlike food, these are issues you did campaign on — but as you try to address them you will quickly discover that the way we currently grow, process and eat food in America goes to the heart of all three problems and will have to change if we hope to solve them.
In the wake of Pollan’s article (and the election), speculation ran wild as to whether or not then-President Elect Obama had read the piece; a recent speech, however, gives reason to believe that some of the message may have sunk in. This week, the New York Times published the transcript of President Obama’s recent address to the American Medical Association on health care reform. Reading over Obama’s remarks, I couldn’t help but see the influences of Pollan’s letters, particularly in this statement about school lunch programs:
It also means cutting down on all the junk food that is fueling an epidemic of obesity, putting far too many Americans, young and old, at greater risk of costly, chronic conditions. That’s a lesson Michelle and I have tried to instill in our daughters with the White House vegetable garden that Michelle planted. And that’s a lesson that we should work with local school districts to incorporate into their school lunch programs.
Fixing school lunch can directly impact our nation’s health, while also aiding our flagging rural economies by prioritizing local purchasing. Coming directly from the President, that is an encouraging endorsement of school lunch reform. Perhaps he is beginning to understand the that our food system cannot be overlooked if he hopes to get America back on track.