Obama garden promotes health

Vegetables and fruit are used by the president’s family and for White House receptions

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Nothing tastes better than a cherry tomato.

Presidential dogs Bo and Sunny don’t need convincing, but as the well-behaved presidential dogs sniff their way around the White House garden, they avoid the temptation of digging up the plants and seem to patiently await the weeks of sun, rain and warmth needed to produce those first cherry tomatoes.

In summer, the Portuguese water dogs race down to the garden, pick one each off the plants and then “they come back up,” said a U.S. Parks Service groundskeeper, who often has president Barack Obama’s dogs at his heels as he checks on the White House grounds.

Part of that duty now involves taking a look at Michelle Obama’s White House Kitchen Garden, the first substantial vegetable garden on the White House grounds since Eleanor Roosevelt’s Victory Garden in 1943. There’s also a beehive a few metres away.

Her garden isn’t just a personal hobby but an attempt to “start a national conversation around health and well-being of our kids and our families,” said an administration official touring agricultural journalists through the garden.

The yard is not huge, but with obesity and poor nutrition now seen as major threats to Americans’ health, Michelle Obama has tried to use it to draw attention to the value of growing and producing healthy food.

The garden now covers 1,900 sq. feet and produces vegetables and fruits that are used in meals for the Obama family and White House receptions.

This day, cooks had been down earlier to pick lettuce and other ingredients for the next day’s state dinner with the visiting Japanese prime minister.

Each year, Michelle Obama brings in American children to help her plant and harvest the garden.

The garden contains plants from Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello Gardens in Charlottesville, Virginia. There is also a pollinator garden, which contains plants intended to attract and feed bees and butterflies, something that is designed to highlight the Obama administration’s support of pollinator protection efforts. The nearby beehive supplies many of the bees that buzz around the garden.

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