Last week I got to join a group of digital editors in Washington, D.C. for a White House brainstorming session as a part of our partnership with Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign, the Partnership for Healthier America, and USDA MyPlate.
After our meeting, we got a tour of the White House Gardens led by Bill Vossel, the White House pastry chef (photo above). Bill’s enthusiasm for the garden is contagious and he shared fun stories about the groups of school children who come to visit the gardens. According to Bill, the favorite part of the garden tour is the compost bin and the worms. He says the kids always ask if they can eat something in the garden. He occasionally grants permission for tasting if there is an abundant crop.
Since we were visiting in February, I was surprised to see that there was so much growing—lettuces, greens, cauliflower, kale, and broccoli. A number of vegetables growing in the garden come from heirloom seeds from Thomas Jefferson and there are inspirational quotes from Jefferson placed throughout the garden.
It was also interesting to see the beehive in the garden. The honey that’s collected is used in a variety of desserts and also to brew White House Honey ale, the first beer to be brewed in the White House (that we know of!).
The White House chefs try to use something from the garden in every meal that is served to the Obama family, and the presence of the garden has changed the way the chefs plan their menus, according to Chef Vossel. “ We used to plan our menus and then try to go out and find where we could purchase the ingredients. Now we go down to the garden and see what’s growing, and then plan our menus.” In the summer when there is a bounty of produce, they donate the overflow to local food banks.
The vegetable garden on the South Lawn of the White House is one part of the First Lady’s efforts to encourage families to eat more nutritious foods. And although most of us don’t have a personal chef to prepare healthy meals for our family or a beautiful vegetable garden in our back yard, maybe we can at least be inspired to plant some herbs in a pot on our patio or to try adding a few more vegetables to our plates—even if we have to purchase them at the local market. Check out our recipes on the MyPlate Pinterest boards if you need some inspiration for preparing healthy meals.