The First Lady:
But I want to just welcome everybody here in the First Lady’s Garden at
the White House, and I just wanted to say a few
words to make sure that we all really understand why we’re here
and what we’ve accomplished, because today is really the
culmination of a lot of hard work. I mean, we — I’m really
proud of you all, you kids, all the Bancroft kids, for sticking with this process and for joining us here today
at the harvest party. This is our reward for all
that hard work, and we — and I want the media here to
give these kids a round of applause. Put your pens down! (applause) We’re really proud of you
guys for sticking with us. The planting of this garden was
one of the first things I wanted to do as First Lady
here at the White House. It was something I had talked
about a long time ago. And with the help of you guys,
you helped to make this dream a reality. And as you could see when
we went down to the garden, can you imagine how
thriving that garden is, just how much food grew from
a few little seeds and some plantings? So this was a big dream
of mine for a while, and it’s been so much fun
working with you all. But I also thought that this
would be a fun and interesting way to talk to kids about
healthy eating and nutrition. The President and Congress are
going to begin to address health care reform, and these issues
of nutrition and wellness and preventative care is going
to be the focus of a lot of conversation coming up in the
weeks and months to come. And these are issues
that I care deeply about, especially when they
affect America’s children. Obesity, diabetes,
heart disease, high-blood pressure are all
diet-related health issues that cost this country more than
$120 billion each year. That’s a lot of money. While the dollar figure is
shocking in and of itself, the effect on our children’s
health is even more profound. Nearly a third of the children
in this country are either overweight or obese, and a third
will suffer from diabetes at some point in their lifetime. In Hispanic and African
American communities, those numbers climb even higher
so that nearly half of the children in those communities
will suffer the same fate. Those numbers are unacceptable. And for the first time in
the history of our nation, a nation that is one of the
wealthiest on the planet, medical experts have warned that
our younger generation may be on track to have a shorter life
span than their parents as a direct result of the
obesity epidemic. Again, that is
just unacceptable. So how did we get here? How did we get in this position
where we have become such an unhealthy nation, and our
children are at risk? And the fact is there
are a lot of factors, but some of the more simple
ones are that too many kids are consuming high-calorie food
with low nutritional value, and they’re not getting
enough exercise. It’s plain and simple: They’re
not eating right and they’re not moving their bodies at all. The way we eat has changed
substantially since I was a little girl, and as I joke, I
don’t think that was that long ago. Laugh. (laughter) They still think I’m old. But I’m not. But when I was growing up,
fast food was a rarity. It wasn’t something
you did every day. It was a special treat,
and we would beg to get it, and it was exciting if we drove
into a fast food place and got a hamburger. We were thrilled. It was like Christmas. Desserts were for
special occasions. We didn’t get
dessert every night. And we didn’t have dessert
several times a day. Eating out was a luxury because
at least my family, we couldn’t afford it. If we got pizza on a Friday
night, that was a treat. And sitting around the dinner
table as a family was something that we did all the time. That was the norm, not just
in my household but in the households of neighborhoods — of kids in my neighborhoods. You stopped playing and you went
home and you ate dinner with your family, and then you
could come back out and play. And I have to admit that I never
really thought about health and nutrition, not as a kid, really. But what made me think about
nutrition was when I became a mother, because I certainly
didn’t think about it for myself. But as a mother, with the
help of our kids’ doctor, I became much more aware of the
need for my kids to eat healthy. Like adults, kids have a very
simple approach to food. What do you guys
like about food? If it tastes good, right? Children:
Yes. The First Lady:
If it tastes good,
you’ll eat it, right? You don’t care what it is! How many people pulled a snap
pea off the vine and ate it today? And it was pretty good, right? Children:
Yes. The First Lady:
Pretty good. Well, I’ve learned that if
it’s fresh and grown locally, it’s probably going
to taste better. That’s what I learned. And that’s how I’ve been able to
get my children to try different things, and in particular
fruits and vegetables. By making this small change in
our family’s diets and adding more fresh produce for my
family, Barack, the girls, me, we all started to notice over a
very short period of time that we felt much better and
we had more energy, right? And so I wanted to share this
little piece of experience that I had with the rest of the
nation, a wider audience, which is what brings
us here today. This gorgeous and bountiful
garden that you saw over there has given us the chance
to not just have some fun, which we’ve had a lot of it,
but to shed some light on the important — on the important food and nutrition issues that we’re going to need to
address as a nation. We have to deal
with these issues. This garden project, what
we’ve done together, guys, has given us the opportunity
not just to educate children, but to hopefully even educate a
few parents and adults as we go along the way. How many of you have talked to
your parents about what you’ve been doing? How many of you have started
talking about fruits and vegetables and
eating a bit more? So we’ve seen some progress even
among this small group of kids. The students with us today have
learned about the seasons, right? We learned about when
you plant what and why, where food comes from, what
it takes for food to grow, the process of how food gets
from the garden to the plate, and how much more delicious
fresh fruits and vegetables are when they come straight
from the garden. And by making this
whole process fun — and we’ve got some advantage
because we have the White House, right? It’s fun being here, right? Children:
Yes. The First Lady:
These students have
learned a little bit. They’ve told us that they’re not
only making better choices when they’re on their own, but
they’re also educating their families about how to eat
in a healthier way, as well. And this is all great news for
us, for this group of kids. But unfortunately,
for too many families, limited access to healthy foods
and vegetables is often a barrier to a healthier diet. In so many of our communities,
particularly in poorer and more isolated communities, fresh,
healthy food is simply out of reach. With few grocery stores
in their neighborhoods, residents are forced to
rely on convenience stores, fast food restaurants,
liquor stores, drug stores and even gas
stations for their groceries. These food deserts leave too
many families stranded and without enough choices when it
comes to nourishing their loved ones. And sadly, this is the case in
many large cities and rural communities all
across this nation. So we need to do more to address
the fact that so many of our citizens live in areas where
access to healthy food, and thus a healthy future,
is simply out of reach. But I’m happy to
report, as well, that many communities are kind
of emulating what we’ve been doing. They’ve been leading
the way, many of them, in taking matters into their own
hands and tackling this lack of access on their own by growing
and caring for a whole lot of community gardens, just
like the one we planted. There are more than 1 million
community gardens that are flourishing all
around the country, and many of them are in
under-served urban communities that are providing greater
access to fresh produce for their neighbors. The benefit is not just the
availability of fresh produce but also it gives the community
an opportunity to come together around gardening and growing
their own food and working together towards a healthier
community and a better future for their kids. But government also has a role
to play in this, as well. For so many kids, subsidized
breakfasts and lunches are their primary meals of the day. It’s what they count on. It’s where they get
most of their nutrition. And the USDA’s National
School Lunch Program serves approximately 30 million meals
each year to low-income children. And because these meals are
the main source of consistent nourishment for these kids, we
need to make sure we offer them the healthiest meals possible. So to make sure that we give all
our kids a good start to their day and to their future, we
need to improve the quality and nutrition of the food
served in schools. We’re approaching the first big
opportunity to move this to the top of the agenda with the
upcoming reauthorization of the child nutrition programs. In doing so, we can go a long
way towards creating a healthier generation for our kids. My hope is that this garden — that this garden, through it, we can continue to make the connection between what we eat and how we feel, and
how healthy we are. And again, I want
to thank these kids, all the students at
Bancroft Elementary, for helping us build our
garden, see it grow — and we’ve done more than that. The point is, is that you’ve
been part of helping to educate the rest of the country. And I want you guys to continue
to be my little ambassadors in your own homes and in
your own communities, because there are kids who
are going to watch this. They’re going to
watch this on TV, they’re going to read a report
about it or maybe their parents will read a report, and they’re
going to see through you just how easy it is for kids to
think differently about food. And you’re going to
help a lot of people. And that makes me very proud to
be working with you guys on this project. You are terrific young people. You are all smart. I love your hugs. I love your smiles. I love the reports
that you did for me. You guys are terrific. You’re very blessed, and
you should be very proud of yourselves, and
continue to work hard. There’s nothing
that you can’t do. Whether it’s being a chef
in the White House kitchen, or a lawyer, or the President
of the United States, or a pea snapper, I
don’t care what it is, you all have
everything it takes. And it has just been such a
delight to work with you. And I’m going to miss
you over the summer, but this garden will be here,
and we’re going to keep doing more around the garden. So by the time you’re in
6th grade and 7th grade — I never want you to get too old
or too cool to come back and see me in this garden. You promise? Children:
Yes. The First Lady:
All right, guys. Well, let’s eat! (applause)