Friday, May 24, 2013

First Lady To Welcome New Jersey Students Impacted By Hurricane Sandy For Kitchen Garden Summer Harvest

President Obama will tour the state with Gov. Chris Christie as Mrs. Obama plucks crops with school children displaced by the storm...
UPDATE, May 28: CLICK HERE for a post about the event
The state of New Jersey will be getting plenty of attention next Tuesday, May 28.  As President Obama makes his second visit to survey Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts with Governor Chris Christie, school children from two storm-devastated communities will visit First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House for a summer harvest event in her Kitchen Garden.  It's Mrs. Obama's first summer harvest event with kids since June of 2011.  (Above, Mrs. Obama and helpers during the '11 event)  

Mrs. Obama welcomed thirty students from three states and the District of Columbia for her fifth annual Spring planting, and "the First Lady also invited back all the children who helped plant the garden in April so they could see the fruits of their labors," the East Wing said.   

There will be plenty to do: Mrs. Obama and her helpers installed two varieties of "experimental" wheat along with more than thirty other fruits and vegetables.  The crops are thriving.

Students from New Jersey's Union Beach Memorial School in Union Beach and Long Beach Island Grade School in Ship Bottom are the special guests for Mrs. Obama's 1:30 PM event, the East Wing said.   The harvest will be livestreamed at
Both New Jersey schools were heavily damaged when the storm hit last October, and students are still attending classes at sister schools during repairs, the East Wing said.  But teachers and administrators have ensured that child health has remained a priority, doing things like offering free lunches through the National School Lunch Program and using USDA's MyPlate project to teach nutrition, so the schools are being rewarded with the White House visit.

FLOTUS planting in April
Students returning to help Mrs. Obama with her harvest are from Arthur D. Healey School in Somerville, MA; Milton Elementary School in Milton, VT; Sarah Moore Greene Magnet Technology Academy in Knox County, TN; and Harriet Tubman Elementary and Bancroft Elementary in Washington, DC.  Each of these schools also promotes nutrition education, healthy eating and gardening.  Tennessee is currently the #1 state in the nation to achieve the goals of Let's Move!, thanks to joint efforts by the City of Knoxville and Knox County.

"Mrs. Obama planted a vegetable garden on the South Lawn to initiate a national conversation around the health and wellbeing of our nation--a conversation that evolved into her Let’s Move! initiative to solve the problem of childhood obesity within a generation," the East Wing said when announcing the harvest event.

Meanwhile, during his visit to New Jersey, President Obama will check on shoreline recovery progress with Gov. Christie "as residents and businesses prepare for a busy summer season," the White House said. 

"The President will visit with families and business owners who have shown such resilience in the face of the destructive storm, highlight the extensive rebuilding efforts to date, and underscore his administration’s ongoing commitment to stand with the impacted communities as the important work of recovery continues," the White House said.

From the White House, the details about the New Jersey schools' nutrition initiatives: 

Union Beach Memorial School – Union Beach, NJ
The students of Union Beach Memorial School were displaced by Hurricane Sandy and currently attend school in other locations while their school is repaired. Through the displacement, Union Beach school district is focused on keeping their students healthy. The school district is providing all its displaced students with a free lunch through the National School Lunch Program until they return to Memorial School, and in March, 8th grade students from the school joined New Jersey and USDA officials to celebrate National Nutrition Month. Recently, volunteers planted herb and vegetable beds at Memorial School for the students to utilize upon their return to the school.
Long Beach Island Grade School – Ship Bottom, NJ

Since Hurricane Sandy, all of the LBI Grade School students (grades 3-6) have been attending their sister school, the Ethel A. Jacobsen Elementary School, which is PreK-2.  They are awaiting their modular classroom units due to storm damage to their school. Despite the displacement, the school was recognized with the HealthierUS School Challenge** award in March of 2013. The school uses MyPlate to teach kids about healthy eating, and they provide ideas for healthy classroom snacking while partaking in their home-grown crops at the EJ School. The district will also be receiving an award from the USDA officials in June 2013.

White House details about the schools that helped plant in April:

Arthur D. Healey School, Somerville Public Schools – Somerville, MA

Somerville Public Schools has had great success with the new, healthy school meals and is promoting healthy eating and snacking at school and at home. The district has a Farm to School program for K-12 that includes food education events like “corn shucking day” when kids learn about the food they’re eating in school meals. At Healey, the school’s parents, teachers, the Mayor, and school administrators support the continued efforts to integrate nutrition education into after-school programming. The school serves healthy breakfasts and snacks, its lunch program has a salad bar and kids participate in taste tests as new healthy recipes are created. The Healey Garden, started in 2004, hosts celebratory gardening days and gardening activities throughout the year.

Sarah Moore Greene Magnet Technology Academy, Knox County Schools – Knox County, TN

This school district revamped its lunch menus and engaged parents and students to make sure everyone would like their new healthy recipes - like their own hand-tossed, whole grain pizza. Sarah More Greene Elementary has integrated innovative ways of encouraging kids to eat fruits and vegetables. Just this fall, the school started a Jeffersonian Heirloom Garden and connected the project to 3rd-5th grade social studies coursework on America’s history, highlighting American presidents who have had a role in gardening and land stewardship. Additionally, the school offers nutritious snacks and breakfasts to students daily and works with community partners to provide gardening classes to parents and kids.

Milton Elementary School, Milton Town School District – Milton, VT

This district has made lunchtime a dining experience for students by using MyPlate, fruit and veggie bars, local ingredients, and delicious takes on fruits and vegetables like squash with nutmeg and cinnamon. They also have kid taste tests and samplings to ensure that kids like the meals served. Milton Elementary School is currently planting a garden and using the produce for student meals during the school year and for their summer food service program.

The White House issued no formal recap of nutrition initiatives at Harriet Tubman and Bancroft Elementary Schools.

**After launching the Let's Move! campaign in February of 2010, the First Lady adopted the US Department of Agriculture's HealthierUs School Challenge as part of her child obesity campaign. Launched in 2004, it is a voluntary certification initiative that recognizes schools participating in the National School Lunch Program that offer healthier school environments through promotion of nutrition and physical activity.  Schools are rewarded with monetary incentive awards, and medals on four levels:  Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Gold of Distinction. 

Ethel Jacobsen Elementary School and Long Beach Island Grade School have both been awarded the bronze medal, according to USDA.  As of May 10, 2013, there are 6,515 schools certified, and awards have been given to schools in 49 states and the District of Columbia, according to USDA.

*Photos by Eddie Gehman Kohan/Obama Foodorama