Sunday, December 14, 2008

Vote With Your Fork
I missed it at the time, but a few weeks ago, Michael Pollan was on Bill Moyers' Journal. Heard the podcast yesterday. You can listen, watch, or read the transcript here. This segment stuck out to me, a great, sensible, simple idea whose value is immediately apparent and will nonetheless, sadly, never happen.
MICHAEL POLLAN: Let's look at the school lunch program. This is where we're feeding a big part of our population. We are essentially feeding them fast food and teaching them how to eat it quickly. Well, let's look at school lunch. If we could spend a dollar or more per day per child and work on the nutritional quality of that food. And let's require that a certain percentage of that school lunch fund in every school district has to be spent within 100 miles to revive local agriculture, to create more jobs on farms, to, you know, rural redevelopment. You will achieve a great many goals through doing that. You will have a healthier population of kids who will perform better in the afternoon after that lunch. You will have, you know, the shot in the arm to local economies through helping local agriculture. And you will, you know, teach this generation habits that will last a lifetime about eating.

BILL MOYERS: But how do we do this when, as you said at the beginning of our conversation, the Agricultural Department is in the lock?

MICHAEL POLLAN: Well, the school lunch program probably has to get out of agriculture. Let's move it over to education. Lunch should be, lunch should be educational. Right now the school lunch program is a disposal scheme for surplus agricultural commodities. When they have too much meat, when they have too much cheese, they send it to the schools, and they dispose it through our kids' digestive systems. Let's look at it in a different way. This should be about improving the health of our children. So maybe it belongs in Health and Human Services. Maybe it belongs in Education. Don't, you know, get the Department of Agriculture's hands off of it.
The 100-mile idea especially is an elegant solution, but could we even get an entire state to implement this policy? Much less a federal law? Meanwhile, moving the program to the Education Department would take no consensus whatsoever, just reorganizing government with the stroke of a pen. And still I don't expect it to happen. The food industry won't let it. He offered some ideas for each of us to consider, ways to vote with the fork.

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