Remarks by the First Lady at United Nations General Assembly Spousal Luncheon
Blue Hill at Stone Barns
Tarrytown, New York
12:51 P.M. EDT
MRS. OBAMA: Well, good afternoon. I hope you all enjoyed the tours. It’s a beautiful, beautiful place.
I want to start by thanking a few people. Of course I want to thank Jill Isenbarger who is right over there. Jill, thank you so much for all your hard work. (Applause.) And also to the entire Stone Barns Center staff, everyone here who has helped make this morning, this day, a very special one. Let’s give them a hand. (Applause.)
And we wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the Rockefeller family. This is their home, and they have put a lot of love and energy into making this center such a special one. And we want to thank them, as well. (Applause.)
And of course to Dan Barber and his brother, David. Dan is the executive chef here. Is that your title? Yeah, well, he’s the head cook guy. (Laughter and applause.) And I have to say that Dan -- I met Dan before we came to the White House. And he actually cooked for my husband and I, and he didn’t know why he was being called to Chicago, but it was one of the best dinners, and after that I fell in love with Dan, I knew that we would want to partner with him if we had the opportunity. He is serving on the President’s Fitness and Nutrition Council, so he’s one of the major players in our efforts to encourage healthier living around the country. So I want to thank Dan for all you’re doing. We love you very much. You’re doing a great job. (Applause.)
And those cute little precious people that were out there, the third graders, they are terrific. They come from Pocantico Hill School here in the area and JFK Magnet School. And I know that this facility is known for its educational component. Having those kids out there wasn’t anything new. They really rely on young people to keep this facility up, to learn and grow from it, and you can see, by the excitement on their faces, that it’s working. So we want to thank all those students for just being so eager. And they also helped to prepare the lunch, so they’re our chefs, as well.
And last but not least, I want to thank and introduce you to some of our -- the most important people in the President and my family’s life, are the people who feed us. We have today with us Cris Comerford, who’s our executive chef at the White House, Bill Yosses, who’s our executive pastry chef, and Sam Kass, who’s a chef, as well, but he also wears a policy hat, and he has been working on the “Let’s Move” initiative. So let’s give them a round of applause. They flew here to help cook, as well. (Applause.) We love them, we’re very proud of the work that they’re doing.
These chefs are among the thousands that are volunteering to work in schools to try to help schools do a better job of figuring out how to make their school lunch meals a little tastier and healthier. And our chefs have adopted a school, and they’re leading the way, and it’s going to be very exciting to see the work that they do. Thank you all so much.
This all started -- why we’re here -- many of you probably know me as a gardener because when I first came into the White House, we developed the White House kitchen garden, which was probably one of the first since Eleanor Roosevelt. And we didn’t know whether we could even grow anything on that plot of land.
But we began to grow some wonderful things, and we worked closely with students in the Washington, D.C. area. They helped us every step of the way. They helped us till the soil. They helped us plant. They helped us harvest. They helped us eat. And what we learned from the mere planting of that garden was that we could use this simple tool to engage children in a conversation about their own health and nutrition. And that experience led us to develop one of the strongest initiatives that I have, one that I’m very proud of. It’s called “Let’s Move.”
“Let’s Move” is a national-wide campaign -- a nationwide campaign -- to focus our country on the epidemic of childhood obesity. Our goal is to ensure that children born today grow up at a healthy weight, understanding how to eat and live in a healthy way. And we’re working with kids because oftentimes it’s easier for them to develop new habits than it is for us to try to change old habits as they get older.
And with this initiative, we’re trying to do a number of things. We’re trying to provide parents with better information. We want to get family physicians involved in really screening and checking children for obesity, and helping them very early on figuring out ways to prevent it and deal with it. We’re trying to improve access in communities. Many communities in this country don't have sufficient access to fresh produce and healthy living. That's why Stone Barns is so important, because many of these kids may never learn that ketchup comes from a tomato, or that French fries actually come from a potato, because they’re very disconnected from the food that they eat. So we’re trying to improve that.
We’re also trying to -- there’s a physical education component to this, and we’re working to ensure that our kids are more active. We have become a very sedentary society in so many ways, with computers and the Internet, and sometimes it’s not safe for kids to play in their own communities, so we have to find ways for our kids to actually move.
But one of the more important components is the school education piece. Children are getting a lot of their calories in school and they’re getting most of their information about how to eat from their schools.
And again this is why Stone Barns Center is so important. It is an example of what can be done with local businesses, local farms, and neighborhood schools, of the kind of energy that comes from children having a hands-on experience on the farm. And when they grow it and they touch it and they taste it, they believe in it more than anything that we could tell them.
And I’ve seen this in my own child. I told the story to Dan. Sasha -- now, we have wonderful tomatoes grown on the White House Garden. Sasha doesn’t like tomatoes -- or so she says -- not until she took a cooking class at her school and made a tomato-pesto-basil-mozzarella sandwich.
So she comes home and she says, Mom, have you ever heard of these “hair” potatoes -- tomatoes? And I was like, what are you -- are you talking about heirloom tomatoes? She says, yeah, that's it. She said, now those are good tomatoes. (Laughter.) I was like, you eat those everyday. No, these were different, Mom. These were different. (Laughter.)
And the point is, is that, yeah, it was different for her because it was her discovery. It wasn’t something that her mother was telling her to do. She had discovered it. She made the sandwich. She made the pesto. And it was good. And now she’s a fan of tomatoes. We can do that with our children.
So I want to thank you all not just for coming, but I know many of you here are focused on this issue in your own countries, and that's the thing that it’s important for the media to understand. Childhood obesity is not just an American challenge. As I talk to these spouses, I’m understanding that we’re seeing -- many of you are seeing these same issues in your own countries. And you’re working very hard on nutrition and education. And my hope is that we can continue to partner and have conversations so that this local campaign becomes a national conversation in so many ways.
So I thank you all for your leadership on this issue. Thank you all for taking the time to spend this afternoon focused on an issue that is near and dear to me. I am always grateful for your friendship and your kindness. It makes these gatherings even more special, to be able to share these ideas and to share in fellowship and toast and all that good stuff.
So thank you all. And it is my pleasure now to introduce you to Dan Barber who will tell you more about the programs here. And then we get to eat.
So thank you so much. And Dan, you have the floor. (Applause.)
1:00 P.M. EDT