What a day! On Wednesday, October 19th I was fortunate enough to visit the White House for First Lady Michelle Obama’s White House Kitchen Garden Fall Harvest. While I waited for the first lady I had the rare opportunity to look into the Oval Office and see President Obama at work, as well as watch him depart White House grounds in Marine One. Needless to say that part of my day was exciting.
This was not as exciting, however, as seeing the first lady motivate youth (and I am sure some of the adults) to eat healthy. As a part of the first lady’s Let’s Move campaign to reduce childhood obesity, she spoke to all in attendance about the importance of eating fresh fruits and vegetables. Mrs. Obama and White House Chef Sam Kass shared lessons about where food comes from and how food impacts overall health. The students in attendance where from Tubman Elementary and Bancroft Elementary. Students from both schools were invited to help harvest the food grown in the garden, which is used in White House State Dinners, the first family’s meals and as part of the harvest that was donated to Miriam’s Kitchen - a local organization that feeds the homeless and one of the Capital Area Food Bank’s partner agencies.
The garden has a variety of foods including sweet potatoes, eggplant, peppers, tomato, okra, broccoli, squash, bok choi, lettuce, green beans, a variety of herbs and for the first time ever on white house grounds pumpkins were grown. I have to say Mrs. Obama looked more excited than the kids about the pumpkins as she picked them. She also broke out the pitchfork to get the gigantic sweet potatoes out of the ground. First Lady Obama has done a fine job of keeping her promise to promote healthy eating and exercising habits among youth. Her mission is to end childhood obesity within a generation. I believe our first lady has made great progress in the steps she has taken. There is a long way to go but the first lady has taken the initiative to get children eating right and exercising. I applaud her for the effort and am sure she will continue to push forward.
I want first lady Obama and her staff to know that she can rely on the food bank for guidance in her mission to end childhood obesity as we are on the front line in the metro area; and have resident experts that work everyday to educate, enlighten and empower the community on hunger related issues – including the obesity epidemic.
I would challenge the first lady to also focus on ensuring that all people, no matter their background or where they live, have access to affordable, healthy, and nutritious foods. I also believe the first lady and her staff should take a hard look at working with the nation’s leaders -local, state , and federal leaders- to find opportunities to support our small farms across the nation. Many farmers plow over produce every year because they are unable to get the products sold, and it is more economical for them to plow over the fields than to donate the produce to food banks, food pantries, schools and other hunger-relief organizations.
We have a unique opportunity to support farmers by giving them an incentive, possibly a tax incentive to donate the products to organizations that serve the less fortunate. This would be another way to get fresh and locally grown products into the community and into our children’s stomachs. First Lady Obama the challenge is set and I know you will accept it. On behalf of the Capital Area Food Bank I would like to thank you for all of the work you are doing. Please keep up the great work.