Skip to content

Food and Social Movement Discourses

2012 May 29
by brubakra

When I think of America, I think of so many types of landscapes. We have rolling hills, deserts, mountains, ocean cities, valleys, the list goes on. Another type of landscape we have in abundance that many people don’t realize is the lawn. Roger Doiron quotes that “there are 23 million acres of lawns” in the US today, so maybe instead of building pools or decorating them with tacky lawn ornaments, we could help transform the use of good land into good food (Todd 301).

Roger Doiron, the founder of the Kitchen Gardeners International, pushed for a call to transform America’s lawns first through his response to the question of what the new president should do Day 1 in the White House. An organic garden in the White House garden could provide for the White House’s kitchen as well as local food banks, as well as be an ‘iconic image’ to the entire country (Todd 299). Two months after being in office, the president’s wife Michelle Obama did just that. Michelle planted a vegetable garden on the White House lawn in a reaction against the rising health and environment crises.

When I was growing up, I always wanted to start a victory garden, because I read about them in my American Girl (Molly) books. I always thought if something as easy as gardening in my own home could help save lives (a little over-the-top goal at that ageJ), then why how could I not make one? So many people love fresh produce and the sense of satisfaction and hard work one has when they’ve grown it on their own rather than picked it up from Kroger is rewarding. Back in World War II, Eleanor Roosevelt also planted a victory garden at the White House to inspire othersin their support on the home front, but none of the other White House residents picked up the reigns until now. Doiron probably couldn’t have asked for a better example to be set than on the lawn of the White House, a symbolic, nationally well known icon. Symbols “educate and motivate…evoke certain emotions and ideas,” and it was smart of Michelle to utilize this American history and national identity for be a starting point for change (Todd 305). The White House lawn isn’t a boring, mowed lawn anymore. It has become a ‘symbol of health and sustainability,’ and also of hope of restoring a better relationship with the nature that provides much of our food still today (Todd 300).

This movement has also brought attention to the “Eat the View campaign, which was launched in 2008 during the presidential election with the aim of planting ‘high-impact food gardens in high-profile places’ (Todd 299). The motto of “Eat the View” is ‘edible landscape for all’, which makes me think of living in a much greener Willy Wonka wonderland (Todd 300). This movement was initiated by the Kitchen Gardeners International, a ‘people’s movement’, not one headed by the government or by large food processing corporations (Todd 307). This group illustrates the democracy of the country, and when use correctly, how strong that democracy can be. The Obamas are doing a great job at finding ways to include the rest of America in this movement and be examples of change. But it was Doiron’s guts and gumption that is making such a difference in this movement for fresh foods and food communication today.

In Bryan Walsh’s article, he also finds that it is not a single national movement that will help change “the way Americans eat and the way they farm — away from industrialized, cheap calories and toward more organic, small-scale production, with plenty of fruits and vegetables,” it’s a series of organized smaller mobilizations. The Department of Agriculture even calls for consumers to know more about local producers with its “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” program. A revolution in agriculture and more of a promotion of sustainability helps our fight against pollution, allows for healthier food, and assists in improving what Walsh calls the “great American obsession”, health. According to Todd, this revolution that started just as an idea is now pushing for change in the American food system in three ways:

(1) it changes America’s food aesthetic

(2) uses this new aesthetic to shape America’s national identity (striving for organic food and processes)

(3) provides a new model for food activism

Many people love food, but not everyone loves fast food. Who can resist a ripe tomato, potato, or picking strawberries off the vine? There comes more security when eating these foods because one knows exactly where the food came from, and probably who exactly is growing them. Gardening is a very personal experience with nature, and it creates at least 3 relationships in just one piece of food: one with the gardener, one with the food, and one with the Earth! With a burger from McDonalds, we have possibly 2 relationships, but this time it’s one with the food and one with the person you ordered from. You don’t see who is touching your food, making it, taking it out of the freezer, where it was grown, how old it is, etc.

 

1)   Do you find the ‘Eat the View’ campaign to be a successful/efficient model of food activism? Why or why not?

2)   Does the actions of the Obamas and the new White House victory gardens inspire a desire for change in you? Or do you feel their actions still seem too much of an elitist approach?

3)   Has both Todd’s and Walsh’s articles brought your attention to change in the American food system more so than all the statistics and articles on the Greenhouse effect and global warming?

11 Responses leave one →
  1. Emma Hubbard permalink
    May 30, 2012

    Todd’s article, “Eating the view: Environmental aesthetics, national identity, and food activism,” focuses on our country’s food production systems. A victory garden movement has emerged as a result of all of the attention we have put on the food movement. The “Eat the View” campaign began on February 6, 2008 when Roger Doiron expressed his idea that the new president should plant a large organic kitchen garden on the White House lawn. Doiron is the founder of Kitchen Garden International and his idea was submitted to President Obama on inauguration day. On March 20, 2009, just two months after inauguration day, Michelle Obama planted a large organic vegetable garden on the White House lawn.

    I strongly agree with you that so many people love fresh produce and the sense of satisfaction and hard work one has when they’ve grown it on their own rather than picked it up from Kroger. According to Todd, The Eat the View campaign “promotes American democracy by encouraging citizens to participate in food production.” The campaign says that change does not have to take place at the global level. Change can simply begin at home, in our backyards. This campaign promotes the possibility of economic sustainability. The Eat the View campaign is way for consumers to “green their lifestyles.” I also agree that the Obamas are doing a great job at finding ways to include the rest of America in this movement and be examples of change.

    I do find the ‘Eat the View’ campaign to be a successful and efficient model of food activism. This campaign encourages Americans to participate in food production. It teaches the public that we can make changes in the food movement through our individual actions. We can plant gardens and grow our own crops. Many Americans eat processed foods because they cannot afford organic foods. The Eat the View campaign opens doors to organic food for Americans who cant afford to buy organic foods at markets such as Whole Foods. If people are able to see that they can make a difference in the food movement, I believe that they will. Many problems are at the global level, but this issue can be addressed at the individual level.

    The actions of the Obama’s and the new White House victory gardens inspire a desire for change in me. I did not know about the organic garden that Michelle Obama planted prior to reading Todd’s article. I applaud Doiron’s efforts for making the public more aware of the steps we can take in the food movement. Prior to reading this article, I did not feel like I could contribute to creating change, but now I feel that I can. I thought this was an issue that must be dealt with at the global level, but the actions of the Obama’s and the new White House victory gardens have inspired me to take action. As a college student, I do not always have enough money to buy organic foods, even though I would like to. I am now aware that I can make a change and gardening is a way to make fresh food a possibility for me.

    Walsh’s article, “Foodies can eclipse the green movement,” was interesting to me in its comparison of the food movement and environmentalism. He says, “if the food movement continues to grow it may be able to create just the sort of political and social transformation that environmentalists have failed to achieve in recent years.” Walsh says that the food movement is not a single national movement, but rather a series of smaller organized mobilizations. Food hasn’t been on the radar beyond the goal of ending global hunger. In the 1980s and 90s, we began to see food-safety scandals and the growing threat of obesity, which is when we began to pay attention to the food we are eating. I agree with you that when we order food from McDonalds, we don’t know who is touching the food, how old it is, etc. Gardening is a great way to make fresh foods and it can help build our relationship with the environment.

    Both Todd’s and Walsh’s articles have brought my attention to change in the American food system more so than all the statistics and articles on the Greenhouse effect and global warming. Todd’s article and Walsh’s article have given me insight on how citizens are making a difference, whether it is by gardening in their own backyard, or by joining community-supported agriculture programs. I believe the food movement has a chance to create change in our society, as people are realizing that they can help make a difference in food production. The statistics and articles on the Greenhouse effect and global warming inform me and make me more aware of what what issues we face in our environment, but do not make me feel like I can be a part of the solution to these problems. The Greenhouse effect and global warming have a long history and have been going on for quite some time. The articles on food production are new, as the food movement has emerged. I think the food movement is one that more people will pay attention to, because people feel that their health and lifestyles are being affected by the food they buy and consume. The food movement relates to many people on an individual level, and many people can become a part of food production and make healthy food choices for themselves.

  2. Seana McCroddan permalink
    May 30, 2012

    Both Todd and Walsh’s articles taught me a lot about the food movement and what has been accomplished in its shadows. I had no idea the percentages behind the movement and the increase in the consumption of organic food and in farmers markets. Last semester at JMU, I took an environmental ethics class and we watched documentaries and read articles mentioned in Walsh’s article like “An Inconvenient Truth,” by Laurie David, and “The Death of Environmentalism,” by Shellenberger. The professor of my class firmly believed that we are indeed in a “dark age of environmentalism,” and often spoke about problems in governmental views of the environmental movement not being of necessity and being too expensive for the budget. Along with this, he often spoke about how the movement is in need of good leaders, and I think the Obamas were in a perfect position to be motivating leaders of today’s food movement.
    I thought the picture at the top of Walsh’s article was brilliant. The caption read “Urban gardening is becoming increasingly popular around the U.S.,” accompanied by a picture of a man gardening among the backdrop of city buildings. The photo and caption highlighted the nature of his article: that you can garden anywhere. People forget about window gardens in cities and DIY surburban gardens with our current obsession with manicured lawns and wasted soil space. I have a garden of my own, and I also keep my blog “Dirty Hands Clean Soul,” updated to try and be a motivation for others. I write posts highlighting all of the latest produce I plant and pull, what I learn through trial and error in gardening methods, and the satisfaction I get from eating my own food. The Obamas victory garden spoke to me, but I am fortunate enough to have the space and years of experience behind me to keep me motivated to grow my own vegetables, fruit and herbs. I think they are doing a great thing by putting a popular face to the food movement, there just needs to be some type of paradigm shift to get the masses to do the same and follow in their example.

    • kikomr permalink
      May 31, 2012

      Although it was not as in depth as the class that you are describing, I, too, took an environmental class. We discussed the changing rhetoric along the years of the environmentalism movement and how food communication has become more popular in recent years. I agree that the food movement is in need of good leaders. The Obamas have a lot of media in front of them and can get the ball rolling much quicker than your average local organic foods advocate. I think that is great that you grow your own food, Seana. Obama definitely took your advice to start his garden!

  3. Emma Hubbard permalink
    May 30, 2012

    In response to Seana McCroddan’s comment:

    I agree that both Todd and Walsh’s articles taught me a lot about the food movement. I thought it was great how you gave an example of a course you took at JMU and what you learned from your professor. I took an environmental communication course last semester, and learned about the marketing techniques that companies use to make their products appear “environmentally friendly”, such as greenwashing. This is a corporation’s attempt to associate its product, services, or identity with environmental values and images. A group in my class did a project on food and discussed the film Food Inc, which focuses on corporate farming in the U.S. and the issues that it creates. I agree with your professor that we are in a “dark age of environmentalism” and are in need of good leaders. I also agree with you that the Obamas were in a great position to be inspirational and motivational leaders in the food movement.

    The picture at the top of Walsh’s article also caught my attention. I agree with you that you can garden anywhere, and also that people forget that there are areas to make gardens in cities. I thought you were exactly right that many people are caught up in having manicured lawns and wasted soil space.

    I think that’s really great that you have your own garden, and also your own blog where you try to motivate others. Todd’s article caught my attention because as a college student, I find it difficult to sometimes afford the healthiest food options, but I didn’t think about the fact that growing my own food was a possibility. I agree that it was a great idea to put a popular face to the food movement, but I also think citizen’s actions can catch people’s attention. Your blog, “Dirty Hands Clean Soul” has a catchy name and people can benefit from reading your posts about your latest produce, what you learn in gardening methods, and the satisfaction you get from eating your own food. This can show people that it is possible to create their own food, and people can become motivated to do so.

  4. kikomr permalink
    May 31, 2012

    Walsh’s article about how the transformation of the food movement is fascinating. The food movement has been shaped ever since Muir’s publishing in 1899, as Walsh states, has continued to be shaped throughout the recent years. Environmentalism is an interesting movement to study because it identifies with all aspects of life. Specifically, the food movement within the environmentalist context is what Walsh explains to have the most potential for change in the future. Our newfound obsession on health and organic products is contrary to recent national obesity figures. According to the CDC, 35.7% of U.S. adults are considered obese. The new health obsession might be helpful in reducing these terrible rates in the future. Todd’s explains that Michelle Obama’s mission to stop childhood obesity is iconic. I agree because there are not a lot of people in this country that have access to the amount of media that the Obama’s do. Let’s be honest, only 44 people have been the leader of this country, so Michelle Obama has the world looking at her. Although many lawns in the United States are either barren with weeds or littered with garden gnomes, many Americans are attempting to move towards an organic lifestyle. With that said, the actions of the Obamas do inspire me to grow when I actually get a garden. It is not an elitist approach because buying tomato plant seeds are much cheaper than buying tomatoes constantly. Furthermore, a garden can yield more food for the money spent.

    • Katie Love permalink
      June 8, 2012

      Kikomr your last bit in this comment is a great response to any nay-sayers. For those who are skeptical of the ability or need to have a garden to curb our latest health concerns – your take is perfect. In the long run, we will save more from having and caring for a tomato plant (usually they produce more than we can eat anyhow!) than buying them from the store. Not to mention, the reward and satisfaction one feels from planting, growing and consuming something they have created.

  5. Seana McCroddan permalink
    May 31, 2012

    In response to kikomr-

    I liked that you shed light on the contrast between our new obsession with healthy eating and organic food, to the still extremely high obesity rates, especially in the U.S. I agree with you that the new health obsession might help reduce these rates, but I think it will take some time because it is such a new occurrence.

    I also think Michelle Obama is doing a great thing by planting an organic garden at the White House. It not only sets an example to our country, but it teaches children that are allowed to come and help plant, at an early age, about the positives that come from working hard to produce your own food. Like you said, it is cheaper than constantly buying fruit with travel miles that need paying for, and it yields more produce from the money you do spend on seeds than what you can buy at the store for that same price.

  6. Maya Smith permalink
    May 31, 2012

    I definitely think that Todd and Walsh’s articles have made me think more about what I can do for our environment than the statistics of greenhouse gases because they give an EASY approach to making a difference. I really cannot afford to buy a hybrid car, or bike to work everyday, however, I can make time to transform my lawn into an organic garden. I especially love that Walsh discussed the new fad of urban gardens because it goes to show that everyone can do a little to help, even if they do not have a large plot of land. I know that in my town, we have a shared garden where people who may not have much land can buy plots and grow their own vegetables.

    I do not think that the White House’s garden is elitist. If anything, I think it is humbling for them to grow their own food. So many people who are in the spotlight will slap their name on a cause but their actions will not always echo what they SAY they believe in. Michelle Obama is doing all she can to help childhood obesity, even personal lifestyle changes. For those of us who do not have a knack for gardening, however, Walsh brings up the great point that there are over 6,000 farmers markets in the U.S. Even if the fresh produce isn’t coming from our own gardens, buying locally gives you a closer relationship to the farmers because you can have a face-to-face relationship with them AND it helps the economy in smaller communities.

  7. tamulida permalink
    May 31, 2012

    Roger Doiron, the founder of the Kitchen Gardeners International, wanted American’s to do something productive with their lawns. He raised the question of what the new president should do in the White House. He makes the point that having an organic garden in the White House garden could provide for the White House’s kitchen as well as local food banks (Todd 299). Michelle Obama decided to plant a vegetable garden on the White House lawn in a reaction against the rising health and environment crises. I find the “Eat the View” campaign to be a successful model of food activism. For instance, take food markets for example; many local garden growers will sell their produce at local markets. This is an affordable way for people to buy fresh produce.
    This campaign encourages Americans to participate in food production. It teaches the public that we can make changes in the food movement through our individual actions. We can plant gardens and grow our own crops. Many Americans eat processed foods because they cannot afford organic foods. This campaign allows for fresh produce to be affordable for people who can’t afford to buy organic foods and are left having to purchase processed food.
    What the Obama family has done has inspired me to start my own garden. Within the last year, I have had a passion to improve on my culinary skills. After learning about the White House victory garden, I have been inspired to start growing my own produce and start cooking healthier meals. I found that working full-time, eight-hour days, I am exhausted after work and the last thing I want to be doing is spending my time in the kitchen cooking dinner. I have decided to experiment with new recipes on the weekends and start preparing fresh meals during the week.

    • brubakra permalink
      June 1, 2012

      In response to tamulida, I like how you said that this campaign encourages Americans to participate. You are exactly right, and I think that the Obamas made a call loud enough by their White House gardens for Americans to do so as well, but the call wasn’t so loud that it’s scaring people away. Doiron wanted his idea to not only spark in people a desire to make a garden of their own, but a kick to be motivated enough to do it. The campaign is doing a great job online of having online interactions, posts, games, emails, notices, and videos sent out to bring in more people. Yet, what I really think is what is making this camgpaing so successful is that the movement is about going outside and planting a seed rather than surfing the web and dreaming of the things you possibly could do.

  8. Katie Love permalink
    June 8, 2012

    We often overlook the abundance of things we have such as lawns, our own areas of miniature cultivation, an area that can help us do our own little part in improving what we and our families eat. I believe through public media attention this fact should be made more well known and people should be taking greater advantage of their own gardens. The Obama’s campaign for this was an excellent way to include American in on this movement by being examples themselves.
    To answer your questions, brubakra, I do find the Eat the View campaign successful in food activism because respect and a following is gained most through seeing an example. If the first lady can find the time to sow a garden so can we and both of these articles brought this to my attention even more than those on global warming. This is due to the fact that is is not only pointing fingers at what is wrong with our generation and why we should improve our eating habits but offering a solution all citizens can engage in.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.