Schoolkids join first lady to replant garden

WASHINGTON — First lady Michelle Obama welcomed spring to the White House by replanting her vegetable garden with the help of local elementary school students.

Obama was joined on the South Lawn of the White House by third- through sixth-grade students from Bancroft Elementary School in Washington and Hollin Meadows Elementary School in Alexandria, Va. Both schools have gardens that Obama has visited.

"Some of your classmates and some of you guys were part of helping us get the first garden ready, right?" she asked the students. "And this year we're ready to do it again."

Obama said that 1,000 pounds of food harvested last October fed many people, both at the White House and at nearby homeless shelters. The work on the garden started a national conversation about healthy eating, she said.

"Everybody is talking about that garden, not just here in Washington, not just here in the United States, but all over the world," she said. "And we've been able to start thinking about things like getting kids to try new foods that they've never tried, vegetables that they've never had."

Recounting last year's harvest, she told the kids, "We did some onions, and we did a bunch of herbs. Don't you remember? We did chives and garlic and rosemary and all that good stuff. We had blueberries and raspberries and blackberries. Mmmm.

"We harvested over 55 different kinds of healthy food — 55!" the first lady reported.

She told the students that no matter where people live or how old they may be, they can still garden, noting the fun of spending time outdoors and digging in the dirt.

To illustrate that point, the first lady knelt in the 1,500-square-foot garden and planted two rows of broccoli as well as some rhubarb.

After the rhubarb was in the ground Obama and some of the children performed what she called a "growing dance" around the wooden planter. The group chanted "grow, rhubarb, grow" several times then circled the planter and finished by throwing their hands in the air.

The newly planted garden is 400 square feet larger than last year and will contain four new vegetables: bok choy, white cauliflower, artichokes and mustard greens.

Joining Obama were Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and several White House chefs.