Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Michelle Obama Plants White House Kitchen Garden for Last Time

Food

By Willy Blackmore

Michelle Obama helped to turn the dirt and plant seedlings on the South Lawn of the White House for the last time as first lady on Tuesday. She planted, among other crops, the same kind of lettuce grown on the International Space Station.

Over the two terms of the Obama administration, online videos of the first lady asking “Turnip for what?" or surprising school kids in their own garden classrooms have become familiar sights. So much so that it's easy to forget that the kitchen garden, established by her in 2009, was the first to be planted on the White House grounds since Eleanor Roosevelt's World War II–era Victory Garden.

First Lady Michelle Obama joins students and guests for the "Let's Move!" Spring garden planting in the White House Kitchen Garden, April 5. Photo credit: White House / Lawrence Jackson

“It was eight years ago that we cooked up this really interesting idea, that maybe we could dig up some dirt of the South Lawn—maybe someone would let us do that and we could plant a wonderful garden that would be a space where we could talk about the food we eat," the first lady said before working with elementary-school students from Washington, DC, schools and kids visiting from around the country.

The Let's Move! campaign, focused on children's health and diet, has had its ups and downs over the years, but initiatives like the White House garden have helped to change the conversation about kids' diets—and has helped to further popularize the growing trend of school gardens across the country.

And the idea that kids will be more likely to eat their vegetables if they see where they come from, which Obama reiterated on Tuesday, is borne out by the research: Numerous studies have shown an increase in the number of fruit and vegetable servings consumed daily, as well as greater intake of fiber and vitamins A and C, after being involved in a school gardening program. Additionally, a 2013 study published in the Review of Educational Research showed “overwhelmingly that garden-based learning had a positive impact on students' grades, knowledge, attitudes and behavior."

Many of the students helping with the planting this year—who travelled from Newark, New Jersey and New Orleans and other points across the county—come from backgrounds where the need for both better nutrition and education outcomes is most acute. At the two DC public schools that have helped both plant and harvest the garden since 2008, Bancroft Elementary and Tubman Elementary, 76 percent and 99 percent of students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, respectively. Bancroft is 74 percent Hispanic, while Tubman is 48 percent black and 48 percent Hispanic.

Childhood obesity rates are higher for both black and Hispanic populations than for white kids. Furthermore, food-access issues in urban areas disproportionately affect poor and minority populations, with predominantly black neighborhoods suffering from the most limited access to supermarkets, according a 2013 study published in the journal Preventative Medicine—even when those neigbhorhoods are comparatively well off.

Photo credit: White House / Lawrence Jackson

Even the rural schools invited to the White House this spring show a focus on food access and nutrition for minority students. In addition to a school from largely white Washburn, Wisconsin—population, 2,117—kids from Cortez, Colorado, were on hand as well. According to a White House press release, Cortez's Kemper Elementary “serves several Native American tribal communities along with a strong Hispanic community and students of families that were some of the first settlers in the area." In addition to school programs like Kemper's Montezuma School to Farm Project, Native tribes across the U.S. are turning to their ancestral crops and centuries-old traditions of farming to help address the epidemic levels of diet-related diseases found in many reservation communities.

Whatever happens come November, a new president and first lady (or first husband) will be looking out over the South Lawn when planting time comes around next spring. And Obama would like the next administration to make a garden part of its early life in the White House, just as she did.

“This is my baby," she said. “And hopefully this will not be the last planting—hopefully there will be other administrations who come in and take up this project and continue to make this a part of the White House tradition."

This article was reposted with permission from our media associate TakePart.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Organic Food, Not Just for Hippies Anymore: How the U.S. Is Dealing With Growing Demand

10 Inspiring Films on Food + Farming: Who Do You Think Should Win the People's Choice Award?

6 Millennials Fight for the Title of 'America's Best Yardfarmer'

Is Growing Your Own Food the Only Way to Truly Be Vegetarian or Vegan?

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Pexels

By Charli Shield

At unsettling times like the coronavirus outbreak, it might feel like things are very much out of your control. Most routines have been thrown into disarray and the future, as far as the experts tell us, is far from certain.

Read More Show Less
Pie Ranch in San Mateo, California, is a highly diverse farm that has both organic and food justice certification. Katie Greaney

By Elizabeth Henderson

Farmworkers, farmers and their organizations around the country have been singing the same tune for years on the urgent need for immigration reform. That harmony turns to discord as soon as you get down to details on how to get it done, what to include and what compromises you are willing to make. Case in point: the Farm Workforce Modernization Act (H.R. 5038), which passed in the House of Representatives on Dec. 11, 2019, by a vote of 260-165. The Senate received the bill the next day and referred it to the Committee on the Judiciary, where it remains. Two hundred and fifty agriculture and labor groups signed on to the United Farm Workers' (UFW) call for support for H.R. 5038. UFW President Arturo Rodriguez rejoiced:

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
A woman walks to her train in Grand Central Terminal as New York City attempts to slow down the spread of coronavirus through social distancing on March 27. John Lamparski / Getty Images

By Julia Conley

A council representing more than 800,000 doctors across the U.S. signed a letter Friday imploring President Donald Trump to reverse his call for businesses to reopen by April 12, warning that the president's flouting of the guidance of public health experts could jeopardize the health of millions of Americans and throw hospitals into even more chaos as they fight the coronavirus pandemic.

Read More Show Less
polaristest / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

By Melissa Kravitz Hoeffner

Over six gallons of water are required to produce one gallon of wine. "Irrigation, sprays, and frost protection all [used in winemaking] require a lot of water," explained winemaker and sommelier Keith Wallace, who's also a professor and the founder of the Wine School of Philadelphia, the largest independent wine school in the U.S. And water waste is just the start of the climate-ruining inefficiencies commonplace in the wine industry. Sustainably speaking, climate change could be problematic for your favorite glass of wine.

Read More Show Less
Pixabay

By Rachael Link, MS, RD

Spinach is a true nutritional powerhouse, as it's rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

Read More Show Less