- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Between jokes about tasty snap peas and a chant of “we wanna eat,” first lady Michelle Obama used the White House garden Tuesday to teach children good eating habits and worked in a policy plug for the president’s health care agenda.

During the harvest of the 3-month-old White House garden, Mrs. Obama made the case for including healthy school lunches in the reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Program along with encouraging children to eat fresh fruits and vegetables.

She and fifth-graders from the District’s Bancroft Elementary School picked lettuce and snap peas from the garden she and the children started to till in March. She urged them to be “little ambassadors” for healthy eating among their friends and families.

After eyeing the fresh salad, chicken and brown rice prepared in the White House kitchen with help from the students, Mrs. Obama said she wanted to reach a national audience.

“Fresh, healthy food is simply out of reach,” she said, lamenting that many poor people do not have easy access to grocers but instead must turn to convenience stories or fast-food restaurants for their meals.

Mrs. Obama said one-third of the nation’s children are overweight, adding that obesity, diabetes and other related diseases cost the United States $120 billion a year.

“Those numbers are unacceptable,” she said.

The first lady called for free school lunches for poor children to offer the “healthiest meals possible” and said that change can go a “long way” to helping children stay healthy.

The nutrition reauthorization measure is expected to be considered by Congress this fall.

“Today is the culmination of a lot of hard work,” she said. “This is our reward.”

The same children helped Mrs. Obama plant the garden in March and April, and White House assistant chef Sam Kass said the first lady intends to open up the garden to more visitors and offer tours for children.

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