Saturday, March 28, 2009

Sam Kass Named The White House Food Initiative Coordinator: What Does This Mean For Michelle Obama's Official Policy Platform?

If Sam Kass Has A New Title, Does The First Lady Have A Formal Food Agenda? And How Much Will The 28-Year-Old Chef Be Impacting National Food Policy?

When Chef Sam Kass first joined the White House kitchen, foodies rejoiced that Mr. Kass's previous advocacy for organic and local food sourcing would have a big impact on the First Lady's official agenda. Although the White House kitchens already had primarily locally sourced and organic foods during previous administrations, there was an outpouring of joy that things were going to get really progressive, with public pronouncements about sustainability and food issues from the White House. Ob Fo cautioned the happy population of foodies, with the help of former White House Executive Chef Walter Scheib, who noted that historically, White House chefs can only become "public" figures, allowed to speak about food issues, if it's something the First Lady wants to officially embrace.

But apparently the First Lady does want to officially embrace food issues, because Mr. Kass has been named the White House Food Initiative Coordinator. And apparently there really are plans to make this a formal policy platform for Mrs. Obama, and for Sam Kass to have a big role, according to one of Ob Fo's White House pals (the Food Initiative Coordinator title was also noted in an overlooked blurb in the Wall Street Journal, buried in a story about the garden).

But official confirmation from the White House of what all of this will entail? None yet. Details on how food initiatives platforms are going to be structured are low. Will things be randomly and haphazardly addressed, as events come up? Or are policy points actually being developed, and populations targeted to get out the message about nutrition, healthy eating, sustainability, and cooking? Is Mr. Kass really going to become a much higher-profile presence, and be setting national food policy in a de facto way? Is Michelle Obama going to champion real, progressive changes in the American food and Ag system, in an official way, as a complement to The President's policy focus on reforming health care? It's all interconnected, after all....

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Pic at top of post above is Mr. Kass cooking for the National Governors Association Dinner; by Pete Souza, official White House non-foodie photographer.