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First Lady Goes Organic with the White House Menu

(Beyond Pesticides, March 10, 2009) First Lady Michelle Obama told the White House chef that she wants the kitchen to go organic. According to National Public Radio, then-First Lady Hillary Clinton asked the White House chef to begin serving organic food when she lived in the White House in the 1990’s. Then, First Lady Laura Bush changed the priority to fresh, local food during her tenure. But Michelle Obama wants it both ways: fresh, local, organic food for the President, their daughters and White House dinner parties.

“I really got caught up in what they want to do so that at the last minute, I had to change my whole perspective,” White House food and beverage manager Daniel Shanks, told U.S. News and World Report. “They talked to us about their vision. They are really excited about being able to show to the world that there’s a better way in a positive, healthy manner. We need to eat better. We need to take care of the land.”

Ms. Obama explained the importance of organic food in her household while appearing on the television show, “The View” in 2008. Diets filled with healthier food produced by free synthetic, pesticides and fertilizers farms can reduce medical problems like obesity and diabetes and be easier on the environment. Beyond organic, she also said she avoids high fructose corn syrup.

“In my household, over the last year we have just shifted to organic for this very reason, said Ms. Obama. “I mean, I saw just a moment in my nine-year-old’s life—we have a good pediatrician, who is very focused on childhood obesity, and there was a period where he said, ‘Mmm, she’s tipping the scale.’ So we started looking through our cabinets… And you start reading the labels and you realize there’s high-fructose corn syrup in everything we’re eating. Every jelly, every juice. Everything that’s in a bottle or a package is like poison in a way that most people don’t even know…Now we’re keeping, like, a bowl of fresh fruit in the house.”

Organic agriculture embodies an ecological approach to farming that does not rely on or permit toxic, synthetic pesticides, chemical fertilizers, genetically modified organisms, antibiotics, sewage sludge, or irradiation. Instead of using these harmful products and practices, organic agriculture utilizes techniques such as cover cropping, crop rotation, and composting to produce healthy soil, prevent pest and disease problems, and grow healthy food and fiber.

Groups around the country are happy to see the new, organic direction the White House is taking, but hopes that President Obama takes it further. Beyond Pesticides would like to see all federal lands managed organically and federal buildings using defined Integrated Pest Management.

Kitchen Gardeners International, a Maine-based nonprofit network of gardeners who are teaching people to grow some of their own food, have asked the Obamas to replant a large organic Victory Garden on the First Lawn with the produce going to the White House kitchen and to local food pantries. Read about their Eat the View campaign.

Beyond Pesticides supports organic agriculture as effecting good land stewardship and a reduction in hazardous chemical exposures for workers on the farm. The pesticide reform movement, citing pesticide problems associated with chemical agriculture, from groundwater contamination and runoff to drift, views organic as the solution to a serious public health and environmental threat.

Learn more about organics on Beyond Pesticides’ Organic Food program page and at the Bridge to an Organic Future conference, April 3-4 in Carrboro (Chapel Hill area), NC.

Encourage the Obama Administration to promote organic agriculture, which slows global climate change and support rural economic development. Read the recommendations sent to Mr. Obama’s transition team by grassroots organizations. Contact the Obama administration.


4 Responses to “First Lady Goes Organic with the White House Menu”

  1. 1
    Rebecca Sutherland Says:

    Will they be able to have an organic farm at the White House if bill HR 875 passes? It is my understanding that this supposed food safety bill (backed by Monsanto, Cargill, and the likes) could require all gardens to use pesticides.

  2. 2
    Cynthia Redmond Says:

    I was very pleased to hear of the Obama family’s shift to organic, locally grown foods and the plan to grow a large organic food garden on the White House lawn.

    I urge you to extend this to all federal properties and promote organic agriculture throughout the country, for the health of the population and the planet.

  3. 3
    Willa Mavis Says:

    We’re planning an organic Square Foot garden this year, so this article was just what we needed to encourage us. If it’s good enough for the President of the U.S. it’s good enough for us.

  4. 4
    hazardous cupboards Says:

    I have just done my organic square foot garden. Even, I am done, your article is very helful for the future.


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