Michelle Obama starts White House vegetable garden

WASHINGTON Fri Mar 20, 2009 6:06pm EDT

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama joins 5th grade students from the Bancroft Elementary School during a groundbreaking ceremony for the new White House Kitchen Garden in Washington, March 20, 2009. REUTERS/Jason Reed

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama joins 5th grade students from the Bancroft Elementary School during a groundbreaking ceremony for the new White House Kitchen Garden in Washington, March 20, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Jason Reed

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - First Lady Michelle Obama broke ground on a new White House vegetable garden on Friday, digging a plot on the mansion's south lawn to help provide her children and visitors with fresh, healthy food.

Obama, who has made a point of reaching out to the local Washington community since her husband's inauguration, gathered a group of school children to dig up the patch, which will be the first vegetable garden at the White House since Eleanor Roosevelt planted a "victory garden" during World War Two.

"I want to make sure that our family, as well as the staff and all the people who come to the White House and eat our food, get access to really fresh vegetables and fruits," Obama said. "What I found with my girls, who are 10 and seven, is that they like vegetables more if they taste good."

Planted as many Americans grappled with obesity and diabetes, the garden will be planted later in the spring and will include berries and mint in addition to vegetables.

She said they were also going to have a beehive -- an idea that did not thrill daughters Sasha and Malia.

"My kids aren't very excited about the beehive," she said. "But we're going to try to make our own honey here."

Sam Kass, an assistant chef, said the White House hoped to have a year-round garden and planned to share some of the produce with a local soup kitchen.

Spinach, peas, fennel and squash would all feature in the garden, he said.

(Editing by Patricia Zengerle)

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