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Eat Like Obama: Plant Your Own Version of the White House Garden

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Looking to eat locally? There's nothing more local than your backyard, which is why First Lady Michelle Obama recently planted a large vegetable garden on the White House lawn. Find out more about the plants and vegetables growing on the "First Lawn" and learn how to eat like an Obama with tips for planting your own organic garden.

Produce Gets Patriotic

Now there's a new way for Michelle Obama to keep her buff arms in tip-top shape -- by hoeing, planting, and weeding in the freshly dug White House vegetable garden. But while exercise is a wonderful added benefit of tending to this 1,100-square-foot plot on the White House's South Lawn, it is not a focus of the first lady's pet project. The garden, which will supply the White House kitchen with organic fruits, vegetables, and herbs and donate additional crops to a DC food pantry, is setting an example for how American families can conserve environmental resources, save money, and eat healthfully.

Michelle Obama is not the first first lady who has tried to make a point with produce. Several past presidential families have planted gardens and built greenhouses on White House property. Eleanor Roosevelt's "Victory Garden" inspired many Americans to dig in to the dirt during World War II. Taking her cue, US families grew 40 percent of the nation's fruits and vegetables during that time, says Roger Doiron, founder of Eat the View, a campaign that helped secure the building of the Obama's White House garden. Before Roosevelt, President Woodrow Wilson and his wife set sheep to graze on the lawn at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue as a cost-saving measure and an example of how Americans could conserve resources during a time of war.

And Doiron says, "We're at war again on a couple of fronts." For one, American highways have gotten more sophisticated and food is able to travel further -- "On average, 1,500 miles from field to fork," he explains. Our diet is fueled not by an "edible landscape" but by processed foods and produce that travels extremely far distances. The problem there? United States families pay far too much for produce, and we're using valuable environmental resources in the process.

Doiron and his wife, in an effort to save money and put better food on the table for their two young boys, planted a 1,600-square-foot garden on their 1/3-acre lot in Maine. They weighed the crops they harvested for one calendar year (over 35 varieties of produce), and compared their costs to the prices they would have to pay at local markets to get those same items. Their savings? A whopping $2,100!

Michelle Obama, who has said she has never had a vegetable garden before, will expect everyone -- including the president -- to help with the upkeep of the garden. The White House also enlisted fifth graders from a local elementary school to assist in breaking ground, and the kids will later help harvest and prepare the produce. "The first lady understands that food is not just a product, but a process," explains Doiron. By planting at the White House "she is inspiring more people to get involved in that process -- one of growing healthy and delicious food."

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