To that end, Obama announced last week a $2.5 million donation by the Burpee Foundation to preserve and care for the garden for at least 17 more years.
The children dug and picked vegetables to help her with her harvest and literally to enjoy the fruits of their labor as they later ate some of the food they picked.
“I take pride in knowing that this garden will serve as a reminder of what we all started, but also what we all have left to do,” Obama said at the ceremony. “As we dedicate this garden here today, I am hopeful that the future first families will cherish the garden like we have, and that it will become one of our enduring White House traditions.”
Updates to the garden include bluestone walkways, a wooden arbor, tables and benches and an inscribed stone that reads, “White House Kitchen Garden, established in 2009 by First Lady Michelle Obama with the hope of growing a healthier nation for our children.”
Students at the University of Virginia’s School of Architecture designed the tables, benches and arbor with salvaged wood from the estates of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Presidents Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and James Monroe. Originally spanning 1,100 square feet, the garden has expanded to more than twice that size.
The changes and donation are part of Obama’s efforts to ensure that future first families can enjoy the garden.
The garden was the beginning of Obama’s “Let’s Move!” initiative, a national campaign to encourage children to be more active and make healthier food choices.
Along with the children participating in the harvest were a few celebrities, including Grammy Award-winning singer Ashanti, “Today Show” broadcaster Al Roker, seven-time NBA All-Star Alonzo Mourning, astronaut Kjell Lindgren and Sesame Street’s Elmo and Rosita.
Michelle Obama said she wanted two students from Flint, Mich., to attend the final harvest to reinforce the concept that good nutrition can reduce the effects of exposure to lead-contaminated water. So, fourth grader A’layia Howard and fifth grader Xavier Purches from Freeman Elementary School were among the students.
Freeman Elementary School is a part of the “Let’s Move! Salad Bars to Schools” program, an initiative that donates salad bars to schools so children across the nation have daily access to fresh fruits and vegetables.
A’layia and Xavier said they were sleepy from their 5 a.m. flight from Michigan, but the children perked up after eating pizza made with vegetables they harvested. Excited and appreciative, A’layia showed off a cartwheel and full split for the first lady.
Freeman fifth grade teacher Kathy Savoie said the countdown to the visit was exhilarating for the students.
“We would meet at lunch and we would talk about what we were going to do, what was going to happen and maybe some questions they might get asked, just to make them feel more comfortable,” Savoie said.
“And every day they would go down the hall and say, ‘Three more days, two more days.’”
The trip to the White House was the first time the students have been out of state or on an airplane, she said.
Obama gave the children hugs and a motherly sendoff when the garden pizza was finished and the harvest finally over.
“Be good, and make me proud.”
Courtney Davis, who is based in Washington, D.C., writes for the Howard University News Service and FierceforBlackWomen.com.