I had a good  day of visiting yesterday in DC, talking with Tom Stenzel, Laura Phelps, Tom O’Brien and Julia Stewart, David Gombas,  Ray Gilmer, Kam Quarles, Lorelei DiSogra and Patrick Delaney.

 (I know it breaks style not to provide you with the organization and title names of the aforementioned, but let’s consider us all “inside the beltway” and without need for additional illumination for the purposes of this post)

Lots of interesting discussions – the economy, food safety,  FDA, USDA, commodity purchases, the White House garden, mushroom GAPs, health care, climate change  - so it’s not easy to summarize the starting and ending points of these discussions. More visits today, with FDA, NCAE and Western Growers.

One point that I thought was interesting that was brought up more than once was the objection to sloppy reporting about the White House vegetable garden. One recent story in the consumer press suggested that “industry” opposed the White House vegetable garden, but upon further examination, the only sourcing for that story that contacted any “industry” related to a chemical/fertilizer association.

In fact, Lorelei DiSogra of United Fresh shared a letter to the editor she wrote to The Washington Post food section in response to July 15 coverage of “The Next Course” – an examination of the next steps in first lady Michelle Obama’s campaign for better food choices.

Lorelei wrote: “Going forward, what is critically important is how this translate into food and nutrition policy in the upcoming reauthorization of all child nutrition programs, like school lunch and breakfast. Washington Post, please keep the spotlight on this issue.”

“Know your food, know your farmer”  seems to be an emerging catchphrase  of the Obama Administration, and the basis for a new USDA focus on locally grown food. In the midst of this initiative, it must be pointed out that the “fresh produce industry” is not opposed to the idea of local food, just as it is not contrary to the idea of a White House vegetable garden.

United Fresh president Tom Stenzel pointed out to me that creating consumer interest in local food will likely serve to increase the passion for all fruits and vegetables, just as imports of Chilean grapes served to boost interest in the grape category for both summer and winter.

So bring on the local food, bring on the glowing press clippings about the White House vegetable garden. But  as Lorelei suggests, the issues with the biggest ongoing public health implications are found in federal nutrition programs.