In 1945, during the fourth year of America's direct involvement in World War II, President Harry Truman issued a proclamation about food. He called for those on the home front to plant larger victory gardens, to preserve more food, and to minimize food waste. This proclamation came after years of propaganda about growing a Victory Garden, the operation of community canning centers across the country, rationing of premium foods, and other wartime policies, and so I'm guessing that it was taken in stride by the Home Front population.
Since running across the proclamation, I have been wondering if a similar announcement from our current president would be useful. While we aren't facing something as immediately dire as a world war, some daunting challenges could be addressed with better food policy — the economic crisis, peak oil, climate chaos, wave after wave of food-safety crises, lives destroyed by diet-related maladies like diabetes and heart disease, to name a few. The recommendations would necessarily be different, perhaps with a items about trying to cooking at home more, or choosing unprocessed foods.
After some thought — and a lot of exposure to mass media — I don't see that much would be gained by a proclamation. In these days of 24-hour cable channels, blogs, Twitter, and the like, it might garner a tiny box in the "National News" section of the newspaper, five seconds on CNN, or a few Tweets, and then disappear into the federal archives.
Even more likely, it would be overshadowed by continuing coverage of the White House Kitchen Garden (WHKG), part of First Lady Michelle Obama's "brilliant end run" to shape the nation's food policy. The garden is an amazing publicity machine, appearing in every conceivable form of media (with Obama Foodorama doing a lot of original reporting as well as deconstructing other coverage), and giving the Obamas an opportunity to make food and agriculture part of the mainstream national conversation.
A picture may be worth a thousand words, but it also looks like one high-profile, determined advocate is worth a thousand proclamations or propaganda posters. Michelle Obama's lively personality, understanding of the issues, and experience with a personal challenge that many can relate to — raising healthy children in an unhealthy culture — humanizes the often abstract world of food policy.
Images from the University of North Texas digital collections.; Michelle Obama photo from America.gov.