First lady Michelle Obama broke ground on a new garden near the fountain on the South Lawn that will supply the White House kitchen with fresh herbs and vegetables for meals.
She was joined by students from Bancroft Elementary School in the District of Columbia. The children will stay involved with the project including planting herbs, vegetables and fruits in the coming weeks and harvesting the crops later in the year.
“We’re going to get a big one in our back yard, the South Lawn,” she promised the volunteers.
Such a White House garden has been a dream of noted California chef Alice Waters, considered a leader in the movement to encourage consumption of locally grown, organic food. She has been appealing for change through the taste buds since the 1960s.
She organized a series of fundraising dinners in Washington before President Barack Obama’s inauguration in January that served foods purchased from local producers at an area farmer’s market to show how it can be done.
Reached Thursday at her Berkeley, Calif., restaurant, Chez Panisse, Waters said she was thrilled by the news.
“It just tells you that this country cares about people’s good health and about the care of the land,” she said. “To have this sort of ‘victory garden’, this message goes out that everyone can grow a garden and have free food.”
Victory gardens were vegetable gardens planted during the world wars with encouragement from the government to make sure there was enough food for civilians and the troops. Waters says her family had such a garden.
Waters has been lobbying for a vegetable garden at the White House since 1992. Recent White Houses have grown some herbs and have practiced limited container gardening on the mansion’s roof to supply it with tomatoes, peppers and other vegetables. The new garden will be the first on the White House grounds in many decades, Waters said.
She said Michelle Obama always has been receptive to the idea.
“She talks about food in connection with children, and it’s a beautiful thing,” Waters said.
Waters also has pushed the administration to adopt her Edible Schoolyard project in which children plant their own produce to eat in the school cafeteria. Most public schools are serving too much processed food that is contributing to the childhood obesity epidemic which can lead to chronic health issues, she argues.
Alice Waters on 60 Minutes: