We've seen the grief conservatives give Michelle Obama for daring to get involved in improving the food policy approach. Imagine if a president encouraged citizens to grow their own food.
The situation in Venezuela is dire with opposition lawmakers declaring a "food emergency." The low price for oil, the country's major export, is a huge consideration as well as the economic policies.
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has called on citizens to grow urban gardens and has introduced a Ministry of Urban Farming. President Maduro and first lady Cilia Flores say they have 60 laying hens and the couple does "produce everything we eat."
We've even seen in countries that rely on oil, such as Canada, that face ever increasing prices to import food. Growing your own vegetables saves money and gives gardeners amazing produce.
The power in making something similar happen in the United States, or anywhere else, lies in the Minister of Urban Agriculture and the strength they have in that position. Emma Ortega was the Minister of Urban Agriculture for about 2 weeks before she was replaced by Lorena Freitez.
In the United States, we can all think of famous people to have that kind of role in an administration: Will Allen, Michael Pollan, Marion Nestle, Alice Waters, Mark Bittman, Joel Salatin. There are plenty of less-known people who could even better.
For those conservatives in the United States who would freak out if President Obama (or Clinton or Sanders) would encourage people to grow their own food or have an agency of government devoted to that subject, no one is requiring or forcing people to grow urban gardens or have chickens. No one has to participate.
But in a land of urban deserts where grocery stores and good produce have been non-existent, helping urban citizens have more control over their food destiny empowers people to make their lives better. Even conservatives like that idea.
One of the criticisms in the Venezuela story is that people don't know enough to do urban farming. We'll bet that is true. Also true in the United States. But that is why people need help.
Next weekend, the Good Food Festival and Conference in Chicago will help people take control of their food production, whether they living in urban or rural settings. They can get instruction for growing herbs or making their own compost or raising chickens or DIY versions of condiments, such as ketchup and mayonnaise.
People can pay for specialized sessions or just gain access to the main room for a smaller fee and get information and the basics.
Unlike the rural farm setting, urban dwellers aren't going to get most of their food through these methods. Vegetables and healthy proteins are weak spots in the inner city.
The United States is not in a food emergency, but perhaps a "nutrition emergency." Every little bit helps. Governments have power that non-profits don't always have; using that power to help people help improve their own health is a good use of that power.
Too often, the U.S. food supply is adversely affected by too much power in some sectors and not enough power in other sectors. Conservatives are very good at railing against government power in areas where it would help, but lousy at railing against government power that hurts the food supply. Liberals are good if not loud on government action hurting the food supply and even more quiet on those government policies that would make a very positive difference.
If you don't have a good food festival in your area, try to start one. It does take a village to teach people how to grow parts of their food supply. Liberals and conservatives might even agree on that philosophy.
photo credit: Tamara Pearson/Venezuelanalysis