As a former reporter at the White House, I was absolutely thrilled when First Lady Michelle Obama decided to install a vegetable garden on the South Lawn in 2009. Since then, it has produced edibles for formal lunches, State Dinners, and for the Obama family's meals. About one-third of the produce is sent over to Miriam's Table, a local organization that feeds the homeless.
Now, Mrs. Obama has written a book, American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America (Crown Publishers, 2012) that tells the story of the garden and offers readers a look at community, school and urban gardens in other parts of the country. In the introduction to the book the First Lady says she was "alarmed by reports of skyrocketing childhood obesity rates and the dire consequences for our children's health." She started the garden, she says, to help start a conversation about "the food we eat, the lives we lead, and how all of that affects our children."
When you live in the White House, you're in possession of a huge megaphone that can reach millions of people ... and Michelle Obama has used it to spread the word about healthy living for all of America's children. A year after she started the garden, Mrs. Obama started Let's Move!, a program to encourage children to participate in physical activities.
The book includes a brief history of White House gardens, from the one that was plowed and fertilized by John Adams to the Victory Garden planted by Eleanor Roosevelt, the Rose Garden added by the Kennedys, and the herb garden installed by President Jimmy Carter.
Mrs. Obama recounts the mishaps that can befall any gardener, profiles the children from nearby Bancroft Elementary School who have helped throughout, and offers tips on planning and planting your own home vegetable garden.
Finally, there are some very nice recipes from the team of White House chefs ... how about the mac and cheese that includes pureed cauliflower and parsley ... and yes, there's even a picture of a small child happily indulging.
Beautiful photos throughout the book, along with illustrated garden "plans" for every season. All proceeds from the book are going to the National Park Foundation, the official charity for the country's national parks.