2016-04-13 / Front Page

GARDENER IN CHIEF

First Lady plants lasting memories
By A. LeeAnn Chalker

Thursday a very special event at Burke Middle School marked the first National Garden tour by a First Lady since Eleanor Roosevelt’s tour of WWII Victory Gardens.

This time the gardens were located exclusively at schools and the message was about defeating disease and obesity with the things kids need most - good nutrition and fun. Twenty-two middle school students, all of whom have worked extensively with the school’s nutrition program, were invited to show the First Lady the fruits and vegetables of their labors.

“It could not have been a better event.” said Donna Martin, Director of Burke’s Nutrition Programs. “She was so gracious and expressed to the students how proud she was of them.”

Mrs. Obama first announced the tour on the April 3rd edition of the Today Show, an event which weather man Al Roker dubbed a “Tour de Garden.”

“I’m so excited to tell their stories and thank them for what they’re doing.” said the First Lady.

Roker, whose journey to a healthier weight and lifestyle has been highly publicized, accompanied the First Lady on the Tour. When Mrs. Obama entered Burke Middle’s greenhouse, Roker introduced her calling her the “Gardener In Chief” and even mentioned Waynesboro’s weather forecast for the next few days.

In the greenhouse Martin spoke briefly about the various programs before handing the microphone over to Mrs. Obama. The First Lady then commented on the fact that so many programs across the country, like Burke Middle’s “End Hunger Games” campaign and Farm-To-Table Cookbook, are initiated by students.

After interacting with students in the greenhouse, it was time to do some planting. The group moved to the center lawn area of Burke Middle where raised wood planters held the beginnings of a kitchen garden. The vegetables planted in that garden include cucumbers, zucchini, yellow squash, tomatoes, hook squash and bell peppers.

Mrs. Obama and Roker moved between several boxes, working and talking with students. From the smiles on their faces it was evident the students were having fun.

Interacting with the students was a priority Martin said. “Mrs. Obama answered questions the students had throughout the entire visit and listened to their experiences.”

After planting, the students sat down for a lunch containing only foods from local sources. During their meal, Martin got to speak one-on-one with the First Lady and Roker to discuss nutrition strategies, especially the importance of careful menu planning, allowing enough time during a lunch period and how essential providing students with choices is to nutrition. During their conversation Mrs. Obama also inquired about what could be done to insure the future success of programs in Burke and similar rural districts.

Before leaving, Mrs. Obama and Roker were given to-go plates of the special lunch as they had to have enough time to reach New Jersey for a 3 p.m. visit. Other senior staffers soon requested additional plates and, in total, 12 lunches were distributed.

“I received an email afterward about how much they loved- literally typed out ‘L-O-V-E-D’- the food and how the quality and taste were perfect.” Martin commented.

Luckily the White House won’t have to wait long for more of the same. On Monday morning Martin traveled to Washington D.C. to meet with the Let’s Move campaign’s Executive Director Debra “Deb” Eschmeyer with a suitcase of grits, as requested by the First Lady’s Office, in tow.

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