A Healthy Harvest

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The First Lady hosted a harvest party in the White House kitchen garden today with the students from Bancroft Elementary to celebrate their hard work. As you may remember, the 5th graders helped start the organic kitchen garden back in March. Today, with help from the First Lady, they got to prepare a healthy meal with produce fresh from the garden. The kids harvested lettuce and sugar snap peas then cooked a delicious lunch consisting of salad, baked chicken and brown rice. And once kids finished their salads, they were rewarded with a cupcake topped with fresh garden berries. This was not only a culmination of their efforts, but it was also the realization of a small dream for the First Lady. She explained that planting an organic garden was one of the first things she wanted to do at the White House because of the severity of health issues facing America’s children:
But I also thought that this would be a fun and interesting way to talk to kids about healthy eating and nutrition.  The President and Congress are going to begin to address health care reform, and these issues of nutrition and wellness and preventative care is going to be the focus of a lot of conversation coming up in the weeks and months to come.  And these are issues that I care deeply about, especially when they affect America's children.
Obesity, diabetes, heart disease, high-blood pressure are all diet-related health issues that cost this country more than $120 billion each year.  That's a lot of money.  While the dollar figure is shocking in and of itself, the effect on our children's health is even more profound.  Nearly a third of the children in this country are either overweight or obese, and a third will suffer from diabetes at some point in their lifetime.  In Hispanic and African American communities, those numbers climb even higher so that nearly half of the children in those communities will suffer the same fate.  Those numbers are unacceptable.
The First Lady discusses gardening with the children(First Lady Michelle Obama hosts the Bancroft Elementary School for the garden harvest of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, June 16, 2009. Offical White House Photographer Samantha Appleton)
With children not exercising and not eating right, childhood obesity has become an epidemic in America that threatens to cause younger generations to have a shorter life span than their parents. So how do we get our kids to eat healthier? The First Lady stated that if the food tastes good, they’ll eat it:
Well, I've learned that if it's fresh and grown locally, it's probably going to taste better.  That's what I learned.  And that's how I've been able to get my children to try different things, and in particular fruits and vegetables.  By making this small change in our family's diet and adding more fresh produce for my family, Barack, the girls, me, we all started to notice over a very short period of time that we felt much better and we had more energy, right?  And so I wanted to share this little piece of experience that I had with the rest of the nation, a wider audience, which is what brings us here today. 
This gorgeous and bountiful garden that you saw over there has given us the chance to not just have some fun, which we've had a lot of it, but to shed some light on the important -- on the important food and nutrition issues that we're going to need to address as a nation.  We have to deal with these issues.
More than 90 pounds of produce has been harvested so far. Some of it has been used for meals at the White House, but much of it has gone to area soup kitchens. While fresh fruits and vegetables are delicious, unfortunately they are not easily accessible to everyone, especially those in low-income areas. As the First Lady explained, for those Americans who live in areas where healthy food is out of reach, a healthy future is also out of reach. This is why community gardens are so exciting. They provide the opportunity to make healthy, affordable food readily available while bringing communities together.   People are learning the benefits of community gardening -- over 1 million community gardens are flourishing right now, many in underserved urban communities.  These gardens are bringing neighbors together to create a healthier community and a healthier future for the kids.
 
The First Lady gives one of the children a hug(First Lady Michelle Obama hosts the Bancroft Elementary School for the garden harvest of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, June 16, 2009. Offical White House Photographer Samantha Appleton)
However, the First Lady explained that the government must also take a role in ensuring our kids have access to healthy and nutritious food. The USDA’s National School Lunch Program serves 30 million meals a year in low-income schools. The school meals serve as a main source of nourishment for these kids, so it is essential that they are healthy. Additionally, the Child Nutrition Act, which regulates federal nutrition programs, is up for reauthorization later this year. By making our children’s nutrition a top priority, we can help assure a healthier future.
Related Topics: Health Care
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