the WHITE HOUSEPresident Barack Obama

Search form

The White House

Remarks by the First Lady during Bancroft Elementary School Visit, 5-29-09

THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the First Lady
_____________________________________________________________
For Immediate Release                                      May 29, 2009

REMARKS BY THE FIRST LADY
DURING BANCROFT ELEMENTARY SCHOOL VISIT


Bancroft Elementary School
Washington, D.C.

2:14 P.M. EDT

     MRS. OBAMA:  Well, that's hard to follow.  (Laughter.)  I mean, those were just some amazing presentations.  Carlos, Cierra, Tammy, David, I am so proud of you all -- I mean, because it wasn't just what they said, but how you presented it, how you structured it; you added humor, great description.  Just as a teacher, that's just A-plus work right there.  (Laughter.) 
     And it says it all.  I mean, those presentations are just a great representation of what this little project can do with kids.  They just eat up information and they take our lead, and they drink it up like nothing, and then they turn it around and teach us in the process.
     It has been an honor to work with you all.  It has been an honor.  Each and every time you have come to the White House, you have come with graciousness, good manners, enthusiasm, energy.  Your parents should be very proud of you, as well as your teachers.  You have made it just so easy for us to work with you, and I am thrilled to be here in your garden.  And I'm going to do some planting, too, here.
     So I want to thank you all for what you've done to help us get the garden started.  And Tammy, just to answer your questions, the garden is beautiful.  It is blooming, it is bursting.  We've already used about 80 pounds of lettuce.  We've eaten it, we served it at a big fancy luncheon that I did for other congressional and senate spouses, and they just raved over it.  And I told everybody about the work that you did to plant it, how you came back again and again, and how you're working in your own gardens.
     So everything is going well.  We also shared some of the lettuce and some of the honey with Miriam's Kitchen, as well, so already the work that you're doing is not just feeding our family and the staff and our guests at the White House, but it's feeding people who may not have anything to eat.  So you all should know, when you come back to harvest in a couple of weeks, you will see a totally different garden. 
     Everything is blooming.  We even had to replant some more lettuce because we used it up so quickly.  But the beans are starting to sprout up.  We put the tomatoes in.  We've sent -- rhubarb.  We've had rhubarb pie.  If you guys have had rhubarb, it tastes just -- sort of like strawberry, and maybe Sam -- Mr. Sam -- (laughter) -- maybe we can do something with rhubarb, a nice sweet when you guys come back for the harvesting.
    
     And we used a lot of the herbs, seasonings in our salads and in our foods, so we are using every single aspect of that garden.  And the tomatoes, hopefully, will be starting to come up, and some of the berries, as well.
     So things are going well at the White House Garden, thanks to you all, and you should be proud of what you've done. 
     But this is exactly why I wanted to be a part of this project -- what we're seeing here.  Being able to share this with the Bancroft School has just been a special treat because as the students indicated in their presentation, it's not just about being out in the garden, being out in the open air, or being at the White House.  They've really learned some lessons about nutrition.  They're making different choices because they're a part of the process of planting and tilling the soil and pulling up the food.  It makes such a huge difference in the choices that they make.
     So this is an example of why we wanted to do this, and I'm so happy that today some parents and community members have been able to join us to see just how much these kids have learned and how much they've embraced these concepts, because it's an example of what we can do nationally with kids and nutrition, because we have to have these conversations about nutrition in a society where we're seeing growing rates of obesity and diabetes among kids.  It is really about choices.
     And one of the ways that I got involved in gardening and eating fresh foods is because I was a busy parent.  When we started this election, even before this campaign, you find that your schedule is so packed that it becomes difficult to figure out how to quickly and effectively feed your family.  So what do you resort to?  I know, it was take-out, it was processed foods, it was everything quick and easy. 
     And we started to see that taking a toll on our health.  And our children's pediatrician gave me a little tap on the shoulder and said, you might want to make some changes.  And the changes that we made were very simple.  We added more fruits and vegetables to our plates.  We eliminated processed foods.  We didn't say no to anything -- we still went out -- but it was just about moderation, and we were able to engage our children in the process of understanding what foods do to their bodies.
     And like the kids at Bancroft, they ate up that information and they started schooling me and lecturing me about what I should be eating, and what a carrot does, and what broccoli does.  And sometimes they look at my plate in disgust now.  (Laughter.)  But what that just told me is that kids can lead the way for us, because we care about them so much.  I know I care about these kids as much as I care about my own.  And I wanted to share some of the lessons that I learned as a parent and the improvement that I saw in our overall family health with the rest of the nation, because it is difficult if you don't know about choices.
    
     And we also know that access and affordability is also an important part of this conversation, which is why encouraging people to use farmer's markets, community gardens are really critical.  But we have to figure out how to make this more affordable. 
     And Bancroft School, this partnership has been right on track, because you've seen firsthand how possible it is to develop a community garden.  There were times, my mother reminded me, when there were victory gardens all over communities throughout this nation.  She talked about, as we went through this garden project -- it was like -- she just remembered that her mother -- you know, they had seven kids -- would get their fruits and vegetables from a victory garden in their neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago.  And that was one of the reasons why during some tough times with a big family and very little resources, they always had fruits and vegetables.  That was always something that was a part of their diet.  So part of what we need to do is reengage our communities in this kind of dialogue. 
     But we also need to think more broadly about the quality of the foods that we give our kids throughout -- what we're doing in our schools, in our school lunch programs -- because as the economy gets more troubled, there are going to be more and more kids who are going to qualify and rely on the meals that they get at schools, their breakfasts and their lunches.
     And the next step -- or one of the next steps in this conversation is figuring out how do we ensure, through the help of the government, as well as local communities, that the foods that our kids are getting in school each and every day is as healthy as it can be, so that we're bringing some of these lessons home and we're also expanding them in the classrooms and in the schools.
     So this has been just a wonderful kickoff.  And as you said, you think I've -- you've enjoyed the hugs and the kisses and the hugs and the sharing?  I've enjoyed that the most --  getting to know you guys, digging in the dirt, you know, just being out in the open air and watching your excitement -- because we did a lot of hard work moving that dirt with those shovels.  That was harder than I thought it was.  Remember we had to get the soil ready?  That was hard.  That stuff was heavy, wasn't it?
     AUDIENCE:  Yes.
     MRS. OBAMA:  But you guys didn't stop.  And I didn't think that we were going to finish planting everything.  I told Sam -- I said, well, we're going to -- when it was time to plant, I said, well, maybe we'll get through some of this, but we're going to run out of time.  But what did we do? 
     AUDIENCE:  Finish.
     MRS. OBAMA:  You finished everything.  You guys planted every single thing in the White House Kitchen Garden.  You did everything, and you didn't stop until it was done.  And you should be proud of yourselves because I am so proud of you. 
     Thank you.  Thank you for being you guys, okay.  So let's go out and do some more planting.  (Applause.)
                                         END                     2:23 P.M. EDT