WASHINGTON – The White House celebrated programs addressing childhood obesity Tuesday and invited elementary school students from across the nation to help with the third annual fall harvest of the South Lawn garden.
First lady Michelle Obama invited students from schools in Arizona,California and Ohio to participate in the harvest because the schools incorporate local produce into school meals and use school gardens as part of nutrition education programs. Students from Washington’s Harriet Tubman and Bancroft elementary schools regularly help in the garden and also participated.
The first lady greeted the children warmly.
“I’m happy that you guys are here to help me,because we couldn’t get this done without you,” she said. “Because the summer was so cool and wet and beautiful,everything is just bursting.”
Obama planted the White House Kitchen Garden and launched Let’s Move! in 2009 in the hopes of eliminating childhood obesity by the time the current generation of children reaches adulthood. Nearly one in three U.S. children is overweight or obese – more in African American and Hispanic communities. The program said a third of children born after 2000 will suffer from diabetes or other obesity-related conditions such as heart disease,high blood pressure,cancer and asthma.
Adding local food to school lunch menus has an added bonus.
Farm-to-school programs in every state add to the stability of farms and other food producers. U.S. schools purchased $386 million in local food from farmers,ranchers,fishermen and food processors in during the 2011-2012 school year,according to the USDA.
The children harvested yellow squash,tomatoes,sweet potatoes and pumpkins,and the first lady dug and loosened the soil in the center of the garden.
Her eyes lit up when Nayeli Torres,a fifth-grader from Willow Cove Elementary School,in Pittsburg,Calif.,walked by with a crate of small pumpkins.
After harvesting the vegetables and fruits,the students joined a few chefs in the East Room and for cooking lessons. Students from the STAR School in Flagstaff,Ariz.,and Greenview Upper Elementary School in Lyndhurst,Ohio,peeled and chopped with three of this summer’s Kids’ State Dinner winners,who came to the harvest as well.
And then it was time to eat.
The first lady sat with the students from Greenview and Bancroft before switching tables to hang out with the different groups of children.
Afterward,Nayeli said she learned about delicious meals that can be made with fresh ingredients. She said the first lady was really nice.
Nayeli said she can’t wait to get home to her school’s garden,established last year,to see how big it’s grown.
Her favorite vegetable is carrots,she said,“because they’re small.”
Reach reporter Wesley Juhl at [email protected] or 202-408-1491. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire. Like the Scripps Howard Foundation Wire interns on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.