Jean Halloran, Director of Food Policy Initiatives at Consumers Union, writes about her recent trip to the White House garden with some fantastic food activists.
Last week I met a remarkable food activist named Megan Kowalcyk, and because of her got to visit the White House organic garden. Megan is twelve, and as she describes it, she saw the movie Food, Inc. and thought that the food in her school cafeteria looked a lot like the food in the movie. She thought it could be better, so she organized her friends and talked to her school, and made an action kit on how to improve your school lunch and gave it to kids in four other schools.
Megan doesn’t just want food to be more nutritious and taste better, however, she also wants it to be safe. Megan came by her concerns about food safety a very hard way–she was five when her two-year-old brother Kevin ate something, probably a burger tainted with E. coli O157:H7, and within a week was dead. Megan’s mother Barbara is a food advocate and is featured in Food, Inc.
Megan met White House Assistant Chef Sam Kass as a result of her work on Child Nutrition reauthorization, and when she let him know she would be in Washington with other families who suffered severely as a result of consuming tainted food, Kass invited her and some of her friends to come see the White House organic garden.
The garden, if you should be wondering, is drop-dead gorgeous. There is a Thomas Jefferson section of heirloom seeds with lima beans that have sensational purple flowers. Lots of broccoli, sweet potatoes coming along. There is green lettuce and red lettuce. There are yellow cherry tomatoes, and not a sign of late blight. No sign of rabbits either.
Megan was in Washington to ask her Senators to pass S. 510, the Food Safety Modernization Act, before Thanksgiving. Kass also arranged a meeting with White House food safety working group chief Tino Cuellar, and Megan, Barbara, other kids who had eaten tainted food and representatives of consumer organizations (myself included) urged him to ask the White House to put passage of S. 510 at the top of the fall agenda. A meal of organic turkey and vegetables, along with the news that the Senate had passed S. 510, would be a great way to celebrate the holiday.