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A White House Farmers Market?


President Obama spoke at the DNC about health care and healthful eating. (Alex Wong -- Bloomberg)

Michelle Obama may have planted a garden on the White House lawn. But she isn't the only one in her family pushing the benefits of fresh, local produce. At the Organizing for America National Health Care Forum on Thursday, President Obama said that improving access to fresh fruits and vegetables is a key part of reforming health care. He also floated another idea.

"One of the things we're trying to figure out is, can we get a little farmers market set up outside the White House," the president said in answer to a question about combatting obesity. "That is a win-win situation. It gives suddenly D.C. more access to good, fresh food, but it also is this enormous potential revenue maker for local farmers in the area."

Obama didn't say anything about how such a market would work, but Ann Yonkers, co-founder of FreshFarm Markets, welcomed the initial idea: "There's a lot of emphasis in the White House on health. So it's pretty consistent with that. It would be great if it happened."

Obama also stressed the importance of creating distribution systems that could link small, local farmers to public schools who want more fresh fruits and vegetables on their menus. (Look for my story on how this is already happening in Charlottesville, Va., in next week's Food section.)

Schools serve French fries, tater tots and hot dogs, Obama said, "because let's face it, that's what kids want to eat anyway." But he noted that the problem is exacerbated because "that food is a lot cheaper because of the distribution we've set up. … Getting local farmers connected to school districts: That would benefit the farmers delivering fresh produce. Right now they don’t have the distribution mechanism set up."

-- Jane Black

By Jane Black  |  August 20, 2009; 6:00 PM ET
Categories:  Food Politics  | Tags: Jane Black, White House Farmers Market  
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Comments

I believe President Kennedy had a Council on Physical Fitness (its genesis may have been in the Eisenhower Administration). During my childhood in the 60's physical fitness was a mandatory part of our education and was equal in importance to our other studies. Even though PE was not my forte, I credit that daily regimen for my continued fitness to this day. Yet, we had little to no eating fitness education. I applaud President Obama's stand in improving health through what we eat, but it must start in our early years. Our schools must have mandatory physical fitness and healthy eating education, as what value is a smart brain in an ailing body?

Posted by: 1234xyz | August 20, 2009 8:26 PM | Report abuse

Uh-ha. The rest of us want to dine on Kobe Beef, Maine Lobster and live a lifestyle of luxury paid by other people. Smoking a cigarette as an after-dinner habit might be good too; tailor made suits and even hand made shirts are at least what we can expect while we drive our peons into poverty and dependence; All the while we're speaking about how our benefactors can become healthier by planting Depression gardens in their yards.

Posted by: sperrico | August 20, 2009 8:58 PM | Report abuse

Wonderful idea!

Posted by: sarahabc | August 22, 2009 10:43 AM | Report abuse

If you assume the goal is what Obama claims it is -- to give "D.C. more access to good, fresh food, but also [a] enormous potential revenue maker for local farmers in the area" -- it's a ridiculous and disingenuous idea.

There's already farmers markets in DC and this sort of thing shouldn't even cross the mind of the President of U.S.

If you take such a Farmer's Market as symbolic to the rest of the country of the importance of healthful eating, however, it may be a worthwhile effort.

Posted by: ghokee | August 22, 2009 12:46 PM | Report abuse

ghokee is absolutely correct: A market outside the WH is not too useful for practical purposes, but might be somewhat useful symbolically.

Maybe we've got enough ideas floated for now! This one came just as he was getting ready to take a needed/deserved vacation. The Pres here just sounds ignorant of the farmers' markets existing in DC and other programs that teach healthy cooking&eating and/or promote gleaning for the needy --

but -- there might be something appropriate for him (and the White House) to promote in distribution to the schools and to parts of the area that barely have decent grocery stores.

Posted by: esthermiriam | August 22, 2009 11:08 PM | Report abuse

The First Family should add chickens to their garden. The Society for Preservation of Poultry Antiquities proposes White Dorkings, a traditional breed. See the entire plan in the March 6, 2009 post at http://poultrybookstore.blogspot.com.

Posted by: ChristineHeinrichs | August 22, 2009 11:37 PM | Report abuse

“It is a tale … full of sound and fury; signifying nothing.” (Shakespear, via Macbeth).

Posted by: Curmudgeon10 | August 23, 2009 6:30 AM | Report abuse

Yes! more fruits and vegetables in public schools meals.

Posted by: angie12106 | August 23, 2009 7:31 AM | Report abuse

Yeah right.

I can see hundreds or thousands of small, inefficient farms springing up in the verdant lands around DC.
You know, with the long growing season, rich soil and favorable weather, I'm surprised that no one has thought of that before.
Why do all the silly farmers grow crops in the south and the midwest?

Obama's Utopia becomes nearer every day.

Posted by: spamsux1 | August 23, 2009 12:20 PM | Report abuse

This is a Grand Idea...Children who are exposed to healthy foods continue eating them as adults.

My 75yo semi-retired brother planted a truck farm in Louisiana this summer where his grandchildren sell the produce with the entire proceeds going to St Judes Children Hospital. He told me yesterday that the watermelon crop was the sweetest he had tasted and one of his sons hooked a team of mules to travel around the neighborhood so the kids could give them away.

We gave one of our neighbors horse manure (of which we have a perpetual supply) and in return she has provided a bumper crop of tomatoes that are delicious. There is nothing better than fresh "home grown tomatoes". Hope to expand on this to other crops next year..

Posted by: Bonniel1 | August 23, 2009 1:12 PM | Report abuse

I find it amazing how some nay-sayers will criticize Obama's ideas no matter how benign, beneficial, benevolent the ideas are. In reading some of the un-constructive, negative comments to his idea of a Farmers Market outside the White House, I think these same cynics would probably criticize "motherhood and apple pie" if he came out for these.

One guy even thinks we have "too many ideas floating around" - how is that possible? My guess is they haven't made the transition yet from the complete LACK of constructive ideas we had coming out of the White House from 2001 to 2008.

Keep the ideas coming Obama, if for no other reason than to give these dullards something to stir their otherwise inert minds.

Posted by: sbmerk | August 23, 2009 1:12 PM | Report abuse

sbmerk: the problem with this one idea is that it is fundamentally impossible, although the imagery is wonderful. Think of all those little truck gardeners tending their precious little crops (most of which are harvested when the kids are out of school, BTW). Nutritious, delicious beets, tomatoes, and lettuce delivered fresh each day to all the schools, where the registered dietician incorporates each day's deliver into a wonderful, healthy, energy efficient meal for each student!! It would be WUNDERBAR!!

Think of the magazine covers showing Ms. Obama shopping at the White House farmer's market, with her bare arms glinting in the dappled sunlight!! She'd be followed by a bevy of little munchkins, each crowding the next for a chance at nibbling some new, hitherto unknown fruit or veggie!!

That's the imagery. Here's the reality: no school board is buying produce from some yahoo who has a backyard garden and is fertilizing it with nigh soil, for all the school board knows. Until local harvests are available ---- chiefly June through September for most vegetables --- Farmer's markets are selling the same vegetables and fruits you buy at Safeway or Giant, "fresh" from a wholesaler who gets them from Mexico or countries further South. And finally, no one has yet figured out how to make kids eat the copious quantities of fruits and veggies everyone is always yakking about. If you told the kids that was what was for lunch, and provided no alternatives, sooner or later they would eat the stuff. But that approach, no doubt, would have school board lawyers atwitter with anxiety and despair, so we are back to the basic problem.

Posted by: Curmudgeon10 | August 23, 2009 2:07 PM | Report abuse

I don't know what Farmers Markets you shop at but Farmers Markets in Fairfax Co. MUST sell produce grown within 100 miles.

No wonder you call yourself "curmudgeon" - get in touch with your "inner child", lighten up and DREAM a little - that's the only way anything ever becomes a reality.

We finally have a young president (and 1st lady) with actual *brains*, brimming with ideas and vitality. Go with the flow - you might even enjoy yourself! Check back with us on the progress of your garden.

Posted by: sbmerk | August 23, 2009 8:25 PM | Report abuse

Any person with character would have sponsored the illegal aunt. What did Obama do? She was "pushed" to the head of the legalizing aliens department and allowed to stay in the low rent housing apartment she was already in. Pray tell me, how an illegal alien got into the Hud apartment? Those responsible should be fired. Legal Americans were and are waiting.

I guess he hasn't acquired quite enough millions yet. Or is he kin to Jesse Jackson, Sr? I feel sorry for Jackson's son, he is paying for "the sins of the father".

Why shouldn't a garden be planted at the White House? Obama is ruining America. It is only fitting that they have a garden.

Education is great, but class "do" tell.

Posted by: redhotpapasan | August 23, 2009 8:25 PM | Report abuse

what does all this stuff about illegal aliens have to do with a farmers market near the white house?

you also ought to get the story straight.
http://voices.washingtonpost.com/44/2008/11/01/obama_campaign_to_return_aunts.html

Posted by: sbmerk | August 23, 2009 11:27 PM | Report abuse

It’s great to see this energy and focus on getting more fruit and vegetables – especially local vegetables – to more people. I’m glad to see this discussion relate to the larger question of changing our food system to make it practical for farmers to get healthy, great-tasting produce to our communities and into our schools. (As several commenters have pointed out, this is a great idea that right now involves a lot of barriers to large-scale implementation. An essential part of any farm-to-school conversation is figuring out how to remove or be creative about going around those barriers.) In Chicago, Healthy Schools Campaign has been proud to support an effort by Chartwells-Thompson Hospitality to serve local vegetables several times a week in school lunch. It’s been so valuable to see the way that individuals throughout the supply chain – at farms, processors, and even in schools – adapt to make this possible, in this case by flash-freezing the vegetables nearly right after their harvest. I’ve blogged about the effort at http://healthyschoolscampaign.org/?farm and would love to hear about others’ efforts to set up systems that make it feasible to bring produce from local farms into schools.

Posted by: rochelle3 | August 24, 2009 2:07 PM | Report abuse

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