Remarks by the First Lady at Spring Garden Planting event
4:05 P.M. EDT
MRS. OBAMA: Hey, guys. What’s going on? Are you awake?
MRS. OBAMA: Yes! What have you been doing? Just sitting here?
MRS. OBAMA: Did they let you have an apple?
MRS. OBAMA: Sam, what are you doing? (Laughter.) You can have an apple. How about that? Way to start.
Hi, everybody. Welcome to the White House! How many of you have been here before? Yes, I see my familiar faces. What’s going on? How was summer? How was the start of -- how was winter break? How was Christmas? I haven’t seen you in a while. Was it good?
MRS. OBAMA: Are you ready to work?
MRS. OBAMA: How are my new faces? Let me see the new people. See some hands. Good to have you. Welcome.
Well, thank you. Thanks for coming here.
I wanted to start by thanking a couple of people besides you all, right.
Okay, the first -- I want to thank the President’s Cabinet members who are here today with me: Secretary of Agriculture, Secretary Vilsack, this gentleman to my right. (Applause.) And the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Secretary Sebelius. (Applause.) They have done so much to help us get the “Let’s Move” campaign going, and I am so grateful for their support. Some of you have seen these guys around. You’ve seen Secretary Vilsack. He’s been at stuff with us. So they’ve been really helpful.
And I also have to thank Melody Barnes. Is Melody here? Melody is coming, but Melody has also been a big help. She’s the President’s Domestic Policy Advisor, and she’s chair of the Childhood Obesity Task Force, so she’s been a big help.
And I also want to thank somebody special who’s with us today, and that’s Christy Vilsack who is Secretary Vilsack’s wife. Raise your hand, Christy, so the kids can see you. (Applause.) I know that Christy is a really good cook, so she’s going to really be excited about what we’re going to plant, because she’ll really know what to do with all the stuff that we plant.
And finally I want to thank all of you -- you guys. We’ve got our old familiar faces from Bancroft School who are here. Yay, Elementary School Bancroft. (Applause.) And we also have students from Hollin Meadows Elementary School. Hey, guys. (Applause.)
Some of your classmates and some of you guys were part of helping us get the first garden ready, right? You guys did all the hard work. And this year we’re ready to do it again. Can you believe it’s been a whole year? Can you believe it? (Laughter.) A whole year! You guys have grown so much! But I’m excited you guys are here.
Just last year we began by getting -- what did we do first? The first thing you did when you came here, what did we have to do? We had to get the soil ready, because if you remember, this was all grass. And you remember we had to create those mounds because the soil wasn’t really ready to plant; we didn’t even know if it was going to grow anything? So you guys helped us get the soil ready.
And then we came and we did what after the soil was ready? What did we do? What did we put in the ground? We put some seeds in and we put some buds in. Last year we did broccoli. What else did we plant?
CHILD: Sweet potatoes.
MRS. OBAMA: We did some sweet potatoes in the fall. What did we do in the spring? What were the vines that came up? Peas! We did some peas. Sam knows. Very good, Sam. (Laughter.) And we did some onions. And we did a bunch of herbs. Don’t you remember we did chives and garlic and rosemary and all that good stuff? And for dessert, remember over there we planted all the berries? We have blueberries and raspberries and blackberries.
And you guys remember the beehive that’s right over there that’s still there? We got good honey, and we used it to make a salad.
So then we did all that and we watched it grow. And wasn’t it amazing how it went from this to -- what? Do you remember what the garden looked like when we were tunneling through and planting? Everything was high. Everything gets to be about my height.
So it is pretty exciting. So last October, with all the work that you guys did, you know what we were able to do? We harvested over 55 different kinds of healthy foods -- 55 in that little piece of dirt -- 55. And you know how many pounds of fruits and vegetables we harvested? Can you guess? Give me a guess. What’s your closest guess? Yes.
CHILD: One hundred and four?
MRS. OBAMA: No, higher. What?
CHILDREN: Eight hundred?
MRS. OBAMA: Eight hundred? Close.
CHILD: Five hundred?
MRS. OBAMA: Higher.
CHILD: One thousand.
MRS. OBAMA: One thousand pounds. One thousand pounds of food. Can you imagine that? That’s pretty amazing.
So we learned a lot about how fun gardening was -- at least I did. I wasn’t really a gardener, and I’ve had so much fun. No matter where you live or what age you are, you can grow stuff. And also it’s pretty fun being outside here with all of you guys. I look forward to being outside in the sun. It’s getting a little hot now, but it’s good digging in the dirt, getting a little dirty, getting dirt under your nails. Remember we were pulling up those big leeks? What were those things we were pulling up? Some were potatoes, but you were pulling up something heavy. What were those big root things we -- the fennel, that’s right. You remember the fennel that we pulled up?
So there’s nothing like watching tiny seeds grow into something amazing. But the thing is -- and I don’t know if you guys have been watching -- but the garden was about more than just planning healthy food, right, because we were able to feed not just the staff at the White House, but we provided food to people at homeless shelters. So we used that food to feed a lot of people. But we also began a conversation about getting kids and parents and teachers all across the country thinking about living healthy.
So just think, the work that you did helped start a national and international conversation. You guys did it. Everybody is talking about that garden, not just here in Washington, not just here in the United States, but all over the world. And we’ve been able to start thinking about things like getting kids to try new foods that they’ve never tried, vegetables that they’ve never had. You guys have been helpful in getting your families to think more healthy about what they eat, getting your communities to make different decisions. We’ve also even started talking to schools about how do we make your school lunches even more healthy, right?
So everyone is really focused on this. We’ve even talked to the grocery manufacturers, the people that make the food. And they’re trying to figure out how do they lower sugar and salt and fats in your food so that you get healthy. Everybody is really focused on this.
So this has been great. And it’s because of the work that all of you guys have done. Would you ever imagine that what you did last year would lead to all of this? Would you? Could you? And we’re ready to do it again this year. Are we ready?
MRS. OBAMA: So we’re going to get started this year with our new group of students, because each of you has a garden in your school. Bancroft, you guys have a garden, and you’re doing good work, and I got to go and visit your garden. You guys taught me some new things about planting and we worked together. And I hope to visit your school again sometime this year or in the fall.
And you guys from Hollin Meadows, I got to visit your garden as well. You guys are doing some really cool stuff with education and figuring out how to tie your garden in with science and math and everything. How many of you guys from Hollin Meadows work in your garden? How many people have helped with the garden? And that’s probably why you’re here.
So it’s important for you all to know that with the power of what you’re doing with gardening, you’ve got the whole country talking about gardening and eating healthy.
So I am grateful to you all for the work that you’ve done. You’ve done an excellent job, and we couldn’t do it -- I don’t think anybody would have paid much attention to this garden if it weren’t for you.
So I am so proud of you all for what you’ve done, and we’re ready to get started again. And as a result of your efforts, we started this big campaign called “Let’s Move,” where we’re asking parents to get better information and make different decisions. We’re working with athletes who are going to start trying to get you guys moving. We’ve asked you all to do your parts. We’ve asked you to make different choices. We’ve asked you to turn off the TV a little bit and get more exercise and play outside. Everybody is ready to do their part.
So you guys have just been a great support to us here at the White House, and I’m looking so forward to starting this garden for the second year. And hopefully we can make some more changes, we can get more kids focused on eating healthy and we can educate the whole country and maybe even the whole world. What do you think about that?
All right. So now I’m going to turn it over to Secretary Sebelius -- you’re next. And then Secretary Vilsack is going to say a few things to welcome you guys, and then we’re going to get going, okay?
All right, so here’s Secretary Sebelius.
4:14 P.M. EDT