victory garden

Today, I will be ushering in the inauguration at the Civic Center with throngs of San Franciscans who want to watch history together, in a collective group.

The sustainable food community has high hopes for an Obama administration. Food security, organic farming, dialing back of subsidies, and support of small farmers are all on the collective wish list for discussion. In October, Michael Pollan wrote an 8000-word letter to the incoming President-Elect outlining the policies that he hoped the new President would take into consideration.

One of the ideas put forward in this article, and bandied about by others in the food community, is to dedicate part of the White House lawn for a victory garden. As you probably know, during World War II, victory gardens were grown all over the country. Twenty million families grew edible gardens and provided 40% of the domestic food supply. At the time, Eleanor Roosevelt planted a garden at the White House. It not only provided food for the White House, but symbolically supported the idea that food is a critical part of this nation’s agenda.

Many don’t know that the White House already has a rooftop garden. According to Walter Schieb, executive chef under Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush, there is a small vegetable garden which is used for White House cooking. That’s a great start, but food activists are hoping for a symbolic, and larger garden which would be visible by the millions of visitors to the White House.

There are large, over-arching issues in today’s food system. And asking the Obamas to consider a 5-acre organic fruit and vegetable garden seems almost petty in comparison to hunger, obesity, and poor diets. But the message that planting a garden would send is important, and should be considered.

Will today’s inauguration speech have a sentence added in for this promise? I can only hope.

For more information about the push for a White House garden, check out the following resources:

Farmer in Chief, Michael Pollan, New York Times
Eat the View
Veggie Gardens and Other Ideas for the Obamas, Anne Marie Chaker, Wall Street Journal

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