Secretary of Agriculture Vilsak Not Serious Enough about Child Nutrition Reform

I just got off the phone on a conference call with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsak and my “sisters” at the Silicon Valley Moms Group where I blog for Chicago Moms Blog.  He claimed to be seriously concerned about childhood obesity, confiding that he was overweight as a child.  However,  when he was asked whether high fructose corn syrup (“HFCS”) will be eliminated as an acceptable ingredient in child school lunches under the soon to be revised Child Nutrition Act, he said, “I honestly don’t know if we would be as prescriptive as eliminating this . . .” and suggested that there would be a “push back” from Congress or a “push back politically.”    I had the opportunity to ask him why government surplus food with high fructose corn syrup and dairy with artificial hormones and antibiotics are being “dumped” on our schools.  I also asked him why it is more expensive to buy an organic apple than a cheeseburger at a fast food restaurant.  His response showed me that he is not really serious about reducing the obesity rates and that it is more important to support and subsidize powerful corporate groups like the Corn Refiners Association, the American Corn Grower’s Association, the National Corn Grower’s Association and the like.     He said that we will always be growing corn in our country and “we won’t stop providing resources to those who grow corn”.  He said nothing about the dairy industry (perhaps my question was too long anyway).  I wish I had a chance to follow up on his praise of corn and corn farmers.  I would have suggested that we turn to a much better, much more nutritious and hardier crop — hemp.  Yes, hemp oil contains wonderful omega 3s to feed our brain, while corn is a grain to bulk up in our tummies and feed to cattle which should be fed grass anyway.  Growing hemp (which is illegal in our country)  can also  help with our deforestation of the globe as it is a hardy fast growing  plant (no need for pesticides!) to use for making paper products and many many other useful things.  Indeed, the Declaration of Independence is written on hemp. Vilsak had some promising things to say about the USDA’s plans to help to improve school lunches, but it all comes down to business as usual in politics.  Those who have the money (corn lobbies) will always win over those who don’t (children receiving free lunches).  Who will pay the cost?  All of us.  If any of these politicians will just look to the bigger picture here.  What cost should we bear?  The cost of losing the money from the corn growers or the cost of losing human lives to obesity and diabetes?  There is no middle ground here.  We need a Secretary of Agriculture who is committed to the people of the United States of America not to the corporations of America.  Mr. Secretary, I implore you, stop the U.S. tradition of catering to our corn industry.  Give our children healthier food and give our farmers a better crop to grow!

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6 Responses to “Secretary of Agriculture Vilsak Not Serious Enough about Child Nutrition Reform”

  1. Jessica Haney Says:

    Thank you so much for your important question on the call and for this follow-up post! I’ve just linked to it from my post on the call at http://inexactscience.blogspot.com/2010/02/public-conference-call-with-agriculture.html

  2. krissee Says:

    I completely agree. Thanks for asking the tough questions and for putting the Secretary on the spot.
    Sounds like the Man responsible for regulating the agricultural sector explicitly promotes subsidies that harm our children. that’s pretty lame.
    Well, I guess all I can do is keep chiseling away at the system.

  3. Alix Says:

    Moody Mommy,

    Excellent critique of our call with the Sec’y of Ag. This line is great:
    What cost should we bear? The cost of losing the money from the corn growers or the cost of losing human lives to obesity and diabetes?

    Well as Big Earl Butz wanted us to do, we planted corn fencepost to fencepost and now we have to undo Big Ag to get real nutrition and restore health!

  4. April Says:

    While I can certainly understand your frustration, to be fair,what I heard Vilsack saying wasn’t that HE supports the corn industry, but that there are far too many politicians in Congress that rely on the corn industry’s support for a ban to ever pass.
    I think this effort will have to rely on the grassroots for many years to come before any real change can happen when it comes to the corn subsidies.

    • moodymommy Says:

      He did indicate that Congress would “push back” but then he started in on how corn is so useful for clean fuel. What does that have to do with the question about giving more money to hfcs producers and not enough to organic farmers? It has to do with skirting the issue, in my opinion.

  5. Crunchy Chewy Mama » Blog Archive » Public conference call with Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Says:

    […] posts:Sophia’s blog post about the call and Secretary Vilsack’s response to her questionA post at the Slow Food USA […]


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