Farmers blast McAuliffe’s hunger game


FOR THE KIDS: First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe and Gov. Terry McAuliffe pledge to help Virginia’s hungry children. One skeptic calls the couple “paid puppets to perpetuate the status-quo.”

By Kenric Ward | Virginia Bureau

RICHMOND, Va. — Market-minded Virginia farmers aren’t buying into Terry McAuliffe’s government initiative aimed at feeding more hungry children.

“If the governor really wants to help, he should call off his bureaucratic army that tyrannizes affordable, local food commerce,” said Joel Salatin, owner of Polyface Farm in Swoope.

Bernadette Barber, head of Virginia Food Freedom, opined, “How much better would it be to allow a child to grow his own broccoli, make soup and sell it to his friends?”

McAuliffe is taking a top-down approach, appointing his wife, Dorothy, to chair a “Commonwealth Council on Bridging the Nutritional Divide.”

“Virginia has a $52 billion agricultural industry, and we have 300,000 children a day go to school hungry,” the first lady declared. “We need to do a better job of connecting the dots.”

Though youths whose families are at or even above the poverty level receive free or reduced-priced school breakfasts and lunches at taxpayer expense, the McAuliffes want government to do more.

“We should not tolerate one child going to school hungry,” the governor stated.

Dorothy McAuliffe’s council will include representatives of the secretaries of Agriculture and Forestry, Commerce and Trade, Education, Health and Human Resources, Veterans and Homeland Security Affairs and other agencies, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.

Randall Anderson, who manages Wicked Oak Farms in Star Tannery, questions the figure of 300,000 hungry children.

“Even for the kids who did eat something at home, what third-grader who’s about to get a snack wouldn’t say he’s hungry?” Anderson asked. “I’m not convinced the government is being truthful about the magnitude.”

Anderson adds: “If you want people in ‘food deserts’ or inner cities to know where their food comes from … the answer is more small farms. A person can grow a tremendous amount of food in a relatively small area. Backyard gardens are a wonderful way to create ‘access.’”

Pete Kennedy, president of the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund in Falls Church, said, “deregulating local food production (would) improve” supply while promoting greater self-sufficiency.”

Salatin said the governor is working at cross-purposes.

“McAuliffe’s state food police intercept raw milk and neighbor-to-neighbor trade as if it’s a drug transaction,” he charged.

“With twice as many children obese as hungry, perhaps more orthodox food (distribution) isn’t the answer. But Mrs. McAuliffe’s carefully handpicked council will ensure orthodox thinking.”

Barber called the council initiative “a racket.”

“The McAuliffes are paid puppets to perpetuate the status-quo of big food processors that create hunger and nutrition problems that they pretend to fix.”

“If they truly had concern for the people, the governor would have signed an executive order enacting the Virginia Food Freedom Act. That would solve the problems overnight,” said Barber, a farmer from Lancaster.

The act, sponsored last session by Delegate Rob Bell, R-Charlottesville, would loosen state restrictions on home-food production and broaden markets for small-scale farmers.

Kenric Ward is a national reporter for and chief of the Virginia Bureau. Contact him at (571) 319-9824. @Kenricward