Wondering what President Obama will eat?

Articles
January 20, 2009

Wondering what President Obama will eat?

On the heels of a world in economic and environmental crisis, today, Americans usher in its first African-American president, a monumental moment in the history of the United States. Advocates for improved food policy are waiting anxiously to see how much attention the President-elect, just moments away from being sworn in, will give to America's obesity epidemic, its related phenomenon - hunger, and the importance of sustainable growing. It's no wonder that all eyes fall on the "first family eaters" and White House Executive Chef, Cristeta Comerford, who in her own rite made history as the first female (and of Filipino descent) to be appointed to this position in 2005. Our soon to be former President George W. Bush is known for his dislike of any foods that are "green" or "wet". Inevitably, Americans expectations of the country's leader should not fall short of his own personal practices as a role model. Some would like to see the new President give up his smoking habit, but he can be praised for his and the new first lady's interest in over-hauling the White House fridge. After all, they happen to be the parents of two young daughters in a country where adolescent obesity has reached all time highs. Michelle Obama has been quoted in reference to Chef Comerford, "Also the mom of a young daughter, I appreciate our shared perspective on the importance of healthy eating and healthy families." On the other hand, she stated so genuinely on "The View", "We're a bacon family." So, we start with the Inaugural Day dinner, and as it is a celebration day it should not be scrutinized for its health aspects. In the tradition of celebrations, enjoying the flavors of food is part of the merriment and fellowship. A Lincoln-themed dinner will be wisely served, as Obama is from the same state of the Emancipation Proclamation President. A fitting menu has been designed that echoes some of Lincoln's favorites - three courses, starting with a seafood stew, then pheasant and duck served with sour cherry chutney and molasses sweet potatoes, and for dessert apple-cinnamon sponge cake and sweet cream glacé.

On the heels of a world in economic and environmental crisis, today, Americans usher in its first African-American president, a monumental moment in the history of the United States. Advocates for improved food policy are waiting anxiously to see how much attention the President-elect, just moments away from being sworn in, will give to America's obesity epidemic, its related phenomenon - hunger, and the importance of sustainable growing. It's no wonder that all eyes fall on the "first family eaters" and White House Executive Chef, Cristeta Comerford, who in her own rite made history as the first female (and of Filipino descent) to be appointed to this position in 2005.

Our soon to be former President George W. Bush is known for his dislike of any foods that are "green" or "wet".  Inevitably, Americans expectations of the country's leader should not fall short of his own personal practices as a role model.  Some would like to see the new President give up his smoking habit, but he can be praised for his and the new first lady's interest in over-hauling the White House fridge. After all, they happen to be the parents of two young daughters in a country where adolescent obesity has reached all time highs.  Michelle Obama has been quoted in reference to Chef Comerford, "Also the mom of a young daughter, I appreciate our shared perspective on the importance of healthy eating and healthy families."  On the other hand, she stated so genuinely on "The View", "We're a bacon family."

So, we start with the Inaugural Day dinner, and as it is a celebration day it should not be scrutinized for its health aspects. In the tradition of celebrations, enjoying the flavors of food is part of the merriment and fellowship. A Lincoln-themed dinner will be wisely served, as Obama is from the same state of the Emancipation Proclamation President. A fitting menu has been designed that echoes some of Lincoln's favorites - three courses, starting with a seafood stew, then pheasant and duck served with sour cherry chutney and molasses sweet potatoes, and for dessert apple-cinnamon sponge cake and sweet cream glacé.

But beyond this historic day, search the World Wide Web and see that a long list of petitioners would love to see the White House host a "Victory Garden" on the First Lawn with the produce going to the White House kitchen featuring produce from local food pantries. It is here that the new President could make a strong personal statement that he supports sustainable foods, improved nutrition in America, and buying local. Not unwarranted, but should it not go unexcused if the new President, like most Americans, after a hard day's work enjoys indulging with his family on an all-American cheeseburger, fries and a milkshake?

It may be disconcerting to some that Obama's website, which lists focused categories important to his presdiency, does not include a food policy category. However, President Obama has plainly stated his position on rural policy;  these issues directly involve the health, environment and the security of our nation as well as our country's farmers and rural communities that are at the heart of his policy.

The Obama family and White House Executive Chef Comerford will be under a microscope for how they live up to the prospect of their own eating practices and how they reflect their dedication to our nation's food, farming and climate crises. But as the Obama theme resounds "We need a change," supporters of an improved food policy may find comfort President Obama's pronounced goals and his appointment of Agriculture Secretary, Tom Vilsack, who stated he would put "nutrition at the center of all food assistance programs." A good start.  And it should be noted  that Obama will be the first president that has ever eaten organic.

To give our readers an overview of the new President's platform related to these food issues crucial to this country, we've included below his statements from his website on rural policy.

Happy Inauguration Day, and we say "Bon Appetit" to the new president and his family! Here are Obama's statements that he endeavors to fulfill:

  • Strong Safety Net for Family Farmers: Obama and Biden will fight for farm programs that provide family farmers with stability and predictability. They will implement a $250,000 payment limitation so that we help family farmers - not large corporate agribusiness. They will close the loopholes that allow mega farms to get around the limits by subdividing their operations into multiple paper corporations.
  • Prevent Anticompetitive Behavior Against Family Farms: Obama is a strong supporter of a packer ban. When meatpackers own livestock they can manipulate prices and discriminate against independent farmers. Obama and Biden will strengthen anti-monopoly laws and strengthen producer protections to ensure independent farmers have fair access to markets, control over their production decisions, and transparency in prices.
  • Regulate CAFOs: Obama's Environmental Protection Agency will strictly regulate pollution from large CAFOs, with fines for those that violate tough standards. Obama also supports meaningful local control.
  • Establish Country of Origin Labeling: Obama supports immediate implementation of the Country of Origin Labeling law so that American producers can distinguish their products from imported ones.
  • Encourage Organic and Local Agriculture: Obama and Biden will help organic farmers afford to certify their crops and reform crop insurance to not penalize organic farmers. He also will promote regional food systems.
  • Encourage Young People to Become Farmers: Obama and Biden will establish a new program to identify and train the next generation of farmers. They will also provide tax incentives to make it easier for new farmers to afford their first farm.
  • Partner with Landowners to Conserve Private Lands: Obama and Biden will increase incentives for farmers and private landowners to conduct sustainable agriculture and protect wetlands, grasslands, and forests.