A food czar coming to your city soon?

"There's no department of food, federally or statewide,'' laments Holly Freishtat, Baltimore's food czar, in the Boston Globe . Not yet anyway. Michelle Obama's efforts to insert government between your fork and your mouth may lead to a federal Department of Food someday. The effort however is already underway at the municipal level; according to the Globe, Baltimore and "other major cities have begun hiring food czars to help combat some of the ills of urban life."

The City of Boston has recently joined the eat your broccoli brigade, creating the $75,000/year (plus benefits) position of "Food Policy Director" with an "ambitious agenda...to help increase access to fresh eats and expand opportunities for urban farming." Baltimore has similar goals:

One of Freishtat's first efforts in Baltimore has been pushing for changing city law to allow for urban farming, an initiative she calls "zoning for zucchinis.''

Cute name, but it's not clear to me how growing zucchini will "combat the ills of urban life." Put down that ho, pick up a hoe?

And is it really a good idea to devote urban space to small-scale food production? I thought greenies were against urban sprawl, that the most efficient model was a densely populated urban core, surrounded by open space and agricultural land.

Food czars also believe in the redemptive power of farmers' markets-healthy "local" food brought into "food deserts" by organic farmers who care about the holistic nature of food, in stark contrast to industrial food conglomerates. Harvesting vegetables in cities like Boston and Baltimore is however, one might say, highly seasonal. Corn doesn't grow well in January in Cambridge, and outdoor markets aren't much fun in the winter either. As a result, the government subsidizes expensive local produce for two months, competing with local grocery stores that supply us year-round.

But at least we feel good about ourselves, and governments get yet another opportunity to control our lives.