I was initially unsure what my time in Washington, DC would bring – there were promises of meetings with lawmakers but knowing the unpredictability of politics I kept my options open. However as soon as I arrived, the bustling energy of the city swept me along and gave me the confidence to share what I had learned pedaling across the country with anyone who would listen. Luckily for me, I have friends in high places, and scored a series of great meetings for my day on The Hill.
It is not often that a girl living on her bike has the opportunity to don heels and meet with legislators in the halls of Congress. I felt as though I was living a dream as security agents verified my ID and wrote down my computer’s serial number at the US Department of Agriculture. After passing through multiple layers of waiting rooms I found myself perched atop a fancy couch stealthily taking photos of the magnificent room. Before long a secretary escorted me straight into the office of USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan.
A hug rather than a formal handshake greeted me and I instantly felt at ease. Deputy Merrigan was interested in hearing about the Tour and the folks who I have met along the ride. We chatted about the importance of Farm to School programming and the need for a policy that allows more in-depth connections from seed to cafeteria. Deborah Kane, formerly of the Ecotrust in Portland and now Director of Farm to School for the USDA, caught wind of the meeting and popped in for a few minutes of conversation. I did my best to absorb every detail before Deputy Merrigan was promptly whisked off to her next meeting – the announcement of $3.5 mil of Farm to School grants! Yay!
The most heartening take-away for me was that SHE GETS IT. Someone in charge who understands the importance of wholesome food for young minds and bodies is doing her very best to create change. I thank Deputy Merrigan, Deb Kane and the USDA for their kind hospitality for a weary but excited traveler.