A Visit to the White House: All in a Day’s Work

Last week I had the distinct privilege to be invited to the White House to meet with Sam Kass, Executive Director of Let’s Move!, the President’s Senior Policy Advisor on Nutrition, as well as Assistant White House Chef. As if his proverbial plate wasn’t full enough, Kass also assisted the First Lady with the development of the first major vegetable garden at the White House since the days of Eleanor Roosevelt’s Victory Garden. The Clintons had a small vegetable garden, but it was located on the White House roof. Apparently a vegetable garden was not seen as keeping with the formal nature of the White House landscape. To this foodie, and political junkie, the White House Kitchen Garden was nirvana.

Meeting in the Kitchen Garden, on the South Lawn of the White House, Kass took me through the L-shaped , 1,100-square-foot garden, which was lush with chard, kale, spinach, peas and lettuce; all ready for harvest. The garden produces vegetables (no beets, as apparently the First Family does not like them!) and herbs which feed the First Family and invited guests. A large portion of the harvest is donated to a local Washington, DC soup kitchen.

Kass also showed me the White House Beehives. Honey collected from the hives is incorporated in the White House’s beers: White House Honey Ale and White House Honey Porter. (Sadly, tastings were not on the agenda.)

Working on a story for our fall issue of Edible Long Island, Kass and I discussed the state of affairs in our school kitchens and cafeterias. Yes, kids (adults, too) can be resistant to eating healthy foods. “Kids don’t want to take math or science classes, but we don’t tell them that they don’t have to,” explained Kass. Perhaps embracing a bit of the “it takes a village” posture, Kass added, “It takes leadership. It takes leadership from the districts, from nutrition directors, from teachers and from children as well, and absolutely from parents. If parents aren’t on board, encouraging their kids to eat good nutritious foods, then yes, it is going to be much harder. We are seeing great progress all over the country. We are seeing leadership at every level. We are on the right track.”

From the White House to your house, I am going to be exploring some of the ways we can work together to inspire students to make healthy food choices, while also enjoying what they eat. We are on the right track.