An Equal Opportunity Garden

Post by Doctor Lauraclubfancy, your health correspondent

As I anxiously look forward to the delivery of our first summer CSA box this week, I can’t help but think about how inspirational Michelle Obama has been promoting healthy food and living. One aspect of her dedication to health that I’d like to highlight in this post has been the White House Kitchen Garden.

In addition to it just being really cool that there the White House now grows its own food and donates most of it to charity, Michelle Obama uses it as an outreach opportunity to inner city elementary school kids. She worked with local elementary school kids to plant the food garden in March 2009. Urban-living children are invited to the White House each year to plant and harvest the vegetables as a way to learn and get excited about fresh, healthy, local food.

Just a little bit about the garden. The White House Kitchen Garden is 1,500 square feet, and produced over a ton of food in the first two years. The garden is completely organic. It includes special vegetables planted from seeds from Thomas Jefferson’s Montecello. The last time there was a food garden on the White House grounds was the Victory Garden, which was established by Eleanor Roosevelt during World War II. It started a trend and by the end of the war more than 20 million home gardens were supplying 40% of the produce consumed in America. You can watch more about the White House Kitchen Garden here you can also tour the garden.

During last year’s planting season, Michelle Obama went through the different vegetables that they were planting that day like swiss chard, leeks, and beets, and said, “uh-oh, the President doesn’t like beets.  But it’s okay.  We’re an equal opportunity garden.” Many of the kids had never eaten swiss chard or leeks before. Her reply was, “So that’s going to be the fun part, is trying some new things.”

In 2008, Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and In Defense of Food, wrote a letter to President Elect, which was published in the New York Times, called Farmer In Chief.

In his letter, Pollan discusses that whoever the future president is, the focus should be on reforming food in the US. It’s a great article. He recommended all sort of things to the future president, like food stamp debit cards should double in value when swiped at a farmer’s market, creating a federal definition of “Food”, and that WIC should be expanded to include food vouchers to farmer’s markets.

Included in his recommendations was the suggestion to begin a White House food garden. “I don’t need to tell you that ripping out even a section of the White House lawn will be controversial: Americans love their lawns, and the South Lawn is one of the most beautiful in the country. But imagine all the energy, water and petrochemicals it takes to make it that way. (Even for the purposes of this memo, the White House would not disclose its lawn-care regimen.) Yet as deeply as Americans feel about their lawns, the agrarian ideal runs deeper still, and making this particular plot of American land productive, especially if the First Family gets out there and pulls weeds now and again, will provide an image even more stirring than that of a pretty lawn: the image of stewardship of the land, of self-reliance and of making the most of local sunlight to feed one’s family and community.”

Wow.  Stewardship, self-reliance, with a focus on family and community is what Michelle Obama is bringing to the White House through this garden and her incredible example.

From Michelle Obama in her speech at the Democratic National Convention:

"And in my own life, in my own small way, I've tried to give back to this country that has given me so much. That's why I left a job at a law firm for a career in public service, working to empower young people to volunteer in their communities. Because I believe that each of us--no matter what our age or background or walk of life--each of us has something to contribute to the life of this nation."

I’m a Mormon for Michelle Obama.

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