The Politics of Food, a Second Helping

Chickens.

Thank you. Now that I have your attention, more on how groups near and afar are trying to influence what we eat.

Near: Today, you can catch a forum on local food at 7 p.m. at the Norm Dicks Government Center. The event, Kitsap Conversations: Locally Grown (a community conversation about the connection between local agriculture, food production sustainability and health in Kitsap County) is sponsored by Kitsap Regional Library, WSU Kitsap County Extension and the Kitsap Sun. You can read columns by panelists to appear at the event here ( they are opinion pieces and do not represent the views of the Kitsap Sun). If you can’t make it to the event, you can catch a live-stream of it on the home page of the Kitsap Sun at 7 p.m.

Near: The Kitsap Sun has revamped its map of local farms and other food producers. It’s a work in progress. Tell us what you think; write to Web Editor Angela Dice, adice@kitsapsun.com.

Afar: in Washington, D.C. Friday First Lady Michelle Obama hosted Olympic College Culinary Arts instructor Chris Plemmons and several hundred other chefs, some quite famous, from around the country for kick-off of the Chefs Move to Schools program. Many, like Plemmons, have volunteered to get involved with local schools to help improve the quality of what’s served in school cafeterias.

To be fair, food service personnel in local schools already have been trying to get more fresh, local ingredients into their menus. Bremerton schools have sought grants to that end, the district’s PR representative told me. I know the same is true of South Kitsap schools and probably other districts as well.

Plemmons, “sweltering” on the South lawn of the White House, where Michelle Obama has planted a large vegetable garden that he and the other chefs got to tour, took this from her 45 minute speech: don’t try to take over the show. Chefs can be so pushy, she said, not in so many words. But you know exactly what she means. Think all the stereotypes of all the Food Network shows you’ve ever seen.

The night before the get-together on the White House Lawn, Plemmons and the other chefs had dined at Equinox, a fashionable D.C. destination known for using local ingredients. The dinner began with fried rissoto fritters and creme fraiche dipping sauce and got fancier from there. The main course was blue crab and sea scallops with caramelized artichokes and pickled scallions. The meat course included 36-hour short ribs that were “to die for.” And there was strawberry soup for dessert.

Wait a minute, I thought all this was about was getting rid of the chicken nuggets.

In case you were wondering, Plemmons’ trip to D.C. was paid for in part by a Perkins Grant (Perkins Grants are federal funds provided through the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 for the advancement of career and technical education.) and in part by the Olympic College Foundation. Nick Giovanni the college’s director of hospitality and food management services said college officials deemed it money well spent, if it helps inspire Plemmons to continue and amplify his history of volunteer work in educating the public, especially people in lower income brackets, about where and how to get food that fills, nourishes and, most importantly, satisfies.

Michelle Obama’s mantra is accessibility to healthy food for all. Plemmons seems on board with that. He wants kids to have more chances to experiment with food, to become more adventurous about eating. How he’ll go about effecting that is yet to be seen, and it will depend on how well he can work within the constraints of the Bremerton school district’s budget, staffing and time schedule.

Because here’s where the rubber hits the road, as we heard from the one person who commented on my last post on this topic. She is pretty much running herself ragged time-wise trying to make healthy meals for her family. How much easier it would be to throw a cookie sheet of nuggets into the oven. And you thought June Cleaver had it easy.

Oh, wait. June Cleaver’s full-time job was to shop, cook and clean up after a family of four.

How much time do you spend each week on your family’s food? Me, including shopping time, 45 minutes per day average, if I’m lucky … or if they’re lucky. My husband probably that much again. So 1.5 hours per day still a full-time June Cleaver does not make.

What would you say is your biggest hurdle to eating a more healthy, satisfying diet?
Time
Money
Access to Ingredients

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