Michelle Obama Gives School and Community Gardens a Boost

The first lady plans to finish her time in the White House championing folks who grow fruits and vegetables.
Mar 4, 2016·
Culture and education editor Liz Dwyer has written about race, parenting, and social justice for several national publications. She was previously education editor at Good.

Michelle Obama is ending her tenure as first lady the way she started it—with a renewed emphasis on healthy eating. Although she lives in the White House and regularly hosts heads of state, as seen in the video above, she’s not too fancy to help kids sort earthworms from a pile of compost.

“I can’t believe I’m sitting here digging out worms with you guys,” Obama says in a hilarious moment captured during her surprise visit to a classroom at Burroughs Elementary in Washington, D.C.

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The visit is part of Obama’s latest effort to champion school and community gardens as a cornerstone of wellness. Back in 2009, when the first lady broke ground on the White House Kitchen Garden, the first of its kind at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. since World War II, she said she wanted to support efforts to reduce childhood obesity by getting kids to eat more fruits and vegetables.

With about 30 percent of American kids weighing more than they should, Obama set out to educate people about making healthier choices. “My hope is that through children, they will begin to educate their families and that will, in turn, begin to educate our communities,” she told The New York Times at the garden’s launch.

Seven years later, Obama plans to spend the next few months visiting school and community gardens around the country to see the many ways people are taking the push for sustainable, healthy foods to heart.

“Since we planted our White House Kitchen Garden and created our Let’s Move! initiative to help kids grow up healthy, I’ve heard from people across the country who’ve been inspired to grow their own gardens and change how they think about the food they eat,” Obama said during a visit to the Today show on Thursday. “And in my final year as first lady, I plan to get out and visit some of these folks.”

The clip above, which was released on Thursday by "Let’s Move!," Obama’s health and fitness campaign, also shows the first lady visiting the gardens and classrooms at Watkins Elementary in D.C. and the community garden run by locals Eriks Brolis and Linda Bilsens.

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“I’m here to help highlight the amazing work you’re doing in your garden for the community. We’ve heard such great things about what you’re doing in the neighborhood and how you’re holding workshops and feeding your family and your neighbors,” Obama tells Brolis and Bilsens in the video.

A new Instagram account for the White House Kitchen Garden was also launched on Thursday. So far it mostly features photos snapped at the other plots of land the first lady has visited, along with captions that share more details about those gardens. The caption for the above photo of the garden at Burroughs explains that the school has “10 raised beds for vegetable gardening, two in-ground beds for herbs and pollinator habitat, as well as a newly planted fruit orchard.”

As Obama tells the excited kids in the video, “I want the world to see all the great things you’re doing and how you’re learning so much about good eating from your garden and your school.”