100,000 Applaud Announcement of a New White House Food Garden
Environment, Nation’s Food System and People’s Health Stand to Benefit
(Scarborough, Maine) –100,000 people signed a petition asking the Obamas to replant a Victory Garden at the White House, and recent news reports indicate that they are about to reap what they sowed.
For advocates of sustainable and healthy foods, this harvest of good news was as welcome as the summer’s first red-ripe tomato. “I’m thrilled for the Obama family and for all who will be inspired by their example to grow gardens of their own this year,” said Roger Doiron, founder of the nonprofit Kitchen Gardeners International and leader of the successful petition campaign, “Eat the View.”
Launched in February 2008, Eat the View proposed that the Obamas replant a White House Victory Garden while planting a few extra rows for the hungry. The campaign used viral videos and social networking technologies like Facebook to grow a large support base, attract international media attention and help inspire a larger grassroots effort. In January, 2009, Eat the View won the “On Day One” contest sponsored by the United Nations Foundation, beating out 4,000 other entries and resulting in thousands of messages being sent to the White House in support of its proposal.
Over the course of the past month, the Eat the View campaign has touted the economic benefits of home gardens as part of its pitch to White House staff members. As proof, Doiron and his wife spent nine months weighing and recording each vegetable they pulled from their 1,600-square-foot garden outside Portland, Maine. After counting the final winter leaves of salad, they found that they had saved about $2,150 by growing produce for their family of five instead of buying it. “If you consider that there are millions of American families who could be making similar, home-grown savings, those are no small potatoes,” Doiron said.
Although the White House garden campaign is now winding down, Doiron says the Eat the View campaign is just getting warmed up. “Now that the Obamas are on board, we’re going to be reaching out to other people and identifying other high-profile pieces of land that could be transformed into edible landscapes. Sprawling lawns around governors’ residences, schoolyards, vacant urban lots: those are all views that should be eaten.”
History of Harvest at the White House
While the Obamas’ garden and the online technologies that campaigned for it might be new, the idea of an edible landscape at the White House is not. Throughout its history, the White House has been home to food gardens of different shapes and sizes and even to a lawn-mowing herd of sheep in 1918. The appeal of the White House garden project, Doiron asserts, is that it serves as a bridge between the country’s past and its future. “The last time food was grown on the White House lawn was in 1943, when the country was at war, the economy was struggling and people were looking to the First Family for leadership. It made sense before and it makes sense again as we try to live within our own means and those of the planet.”