“Look at these...beautiful, purple. We just harvested these too.” Sam Kass brushes away the leaves to reveal Japanese eggplants.
It’s a beautiful summer day in Washington, DC. Instead of toiling in a government office building, Kass is digging in a backyard garden. And it's not just any garden; he’s in the White House kitchen garden. Kass is a White House assistant chef, working his dream job.
“I get to come down every night and I’ll harvest something pretty much for dinner. This little thing down here, you see it?” he asks, holding a tiny green pepper. The seeds came from Thomas Jefferson’s garden at Monticello. “It will turn red, but you can eat it green or red. That thing packs a punch,” Kass says smiling broadly. “Don’t let the size fool you.”
The 32-year old Chicago native has known the First Family for many years; his father was Malia’s 5th grade teacher. But he’s more than a chef. He travels with the Obamas on vacation and is ever-present when the First Lady talks about healthy eating.
In addition to having the title of Assistant Chef, he’s also a White House Policy Advisor for Healthy Food Initiatives - a job that has put him in the spotlight as a spokesperson and earned him a spot on People Magazines 100 Most Beautiful People and Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People in Business 2011.
“This is now our 4th season,” Kass says. “We have a lot of corn. All of the summer stuff. The cucumbers are going bananas. We have beans and squash and lots of tomatoes. We have lots of potatoes, sweet potatoes. The strawberries are coming. The blueberries are looking good. So we’re doing great.”
The garden has been a signature initiative of the First Lady who has used it to start a conversation on healthy eating for children. It’s a learning garden and school groups are frequently invited to visit the garden to touch, feel and taste the vegetables.
“When kids are empowered as actors in this and they get to be a part of the process of planting a seed and watching it grow and preparing it to eat, their minds just open up because they take real ownership in the process,” Kass said.
Kass points to the statistics. “I’m incredibly worried and so is the First Lady right now. One in three of the youngest generation will have diabetes in their lifetime unless we turn this around.”
He acknowledges it can be a battle for parents to convince their children to give up the chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese and swap them for healthy vegetables. But there are steps parents can take, including sitting down for family dinners.
“The First Family, anytime the President is in town, they will eat dinner as a family. It’s a great way for families to sit down and be a family. It’s critical to getting kids to eat their vegetables too.”
Kass also recommends families try to plan ahead. Take half an hour on Sundays and map out meals for the week so you’re not trying to figure it out on the way home on the fly, he says. And he’s all about balance - having mostly healthy foods, but allowing for the occasional splurge.
Kass won’t disclose the President or First Lady’s favorite foods. “That’s top secret information,” he says brushing off the question with a laugh. But, he adds, the First Family practices what they preach. “We cook to MyPlate and then we go from there.”
With two children living in the White House, Kass says they do build in flexibility having dessert at the end of the week and the occasional pizza and pastas. “We balance healthy meals, but we have fun with food too. We make sure we throw them a bone every now and then and serve them fun stuff.”
The White House Let’s Move team is hosting a “State” dinner for kids in August. Children aged eight to 14 were invited to submit healthy recipes. Winning entrants from each state will be chosen to attend the dinner with Mrs. Obama.
Kass was one of the official judges, sampling more than 100 different dishes. “Kids were coming up with recipes with the help of their parents. They were wonderful. You could just see the ingenuity. Some really delicious stuff.”
Previously - Keeping history alive, one tomato at a time and White House gardens for good
With obamacare, will we each have a private chef and individual garden or are we forced to live in another crap hole?
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These cukes are bananas. B– A.N.A.N.A.S.
These cukes are bananas! B– A.N.A.N.A.S!
Hi umm out of curiosity what is lock out and how do you spot it?I'm a gardener or beginning one any how and was just wondering what that and nutrient defic. looks like.So I may know for my own garden. Thank you.
It's evident that there's a lot of manure at the white house.
That's not an unripe tomato–it is a Yellow Bulb (low acid) crossed with (most likely) a Sweet 100. CNN, find some new fact checkers.
I'm a very avid gardener, a huge fan of low-acid tomatoes and I'm also the editor here. There is still green on the shoulders of that tomato. If it were in my garden, I wouldn't pick it yet. I've also seen the wider shot of this - that tomato just isn't ripe yet.
" the cucumbers are going bananas" can't the obama's do anything right???
I have a conservative garden and my cucumbers NEVER go bananas, that's just plain gay!
Studies show that men that are the most homophobic have gay tendencies. Proof? Just about every one of the GOP that has come out with a harsh bill against gay rights, comes out later as gay. Read the research. But then again, you people don't believe in science, only Fox News.
Whats growing in the White House garden? HOPEFULLY a new president!!
HMMMM....WONDER IF THOMAS JEFFERSON'S SEEDS ARE GENETICALLY MODIFIED? ONE WORD: MONSANTO. OBAMA IS A HYPOCRITE. HE IS A DICTATOR. HE IS A TYRANT.
stop yelling we're right here.
I know what's growing IN the Whitehouse, incompetence.
Rightwing envy and jealousy! Obama/Roberts 2012! Four more years suckers!
Obama/Roberts 2012! Haha! Four more years suckers! Live with it! And don't be so vain! We'll grow some broccoli for you teapublicans since you don't like the Affordable Care Act! Haha!
I wish the author would have pointed out the inconsistency with Michelle's garden and advocating for healthy food and Barack's appointment of Monsanto's Michael Taylor to the head of Food Safety for the FDA. Sheesh!
AGREED. You would think Mr. Obama would at least talk to Mrs. Obama about her organic garden. If that's what they grow for their family, why don't they preach what they practice? Label Genetically Modified foods so we're at least given a choice of what we buy and what we want to grow our bodies from.
Like she really grows anything.
Why do most of those plants show signs of nutrient deficiency or lock-out? Hmm...Leave it up to our government to hire unqualified people to do the work.
Our government is a bunch of unqualified people.
A divided nation will not stand.
Neither can a Socialist one.
FYI CNN–you've labeled one of the pictures featuring your own reporter as Michelle Obama. They both have dark complexions, but are not the same person. I mean, really now.
What's Growin'? Pot & Chicken of course.
Pot and coke more likely.
drunken not drunkin. then again who cares you're obviously hopeless.
Always amuses me when rabid (is there any other kind?) conservatives insist that there's been no racism toward Obama. Just read some of the posts here.
The racism present in these comments is STAGGERING. I'm ashamed to call myself American when I see things like this.
We're ashamed to call you and American too.
He started it.
Well you sure don't see no cotton!
You are disgusting.
What? They don't serve fried chicken and watermelon on a daily basis in the messhall?
You are disgusting. Just the lowest kind of human, really.
No, there's lower. They are called liberals, otherwise known as leeches and ticks.
Man i bet there is some weed growing in there somewhere.
I wish he would have gotten busted when he was in school and none of this crap would be happening now with all this division and white versus black stuff that will never change untill the blacks figure out it's not not the white mans fault.
legalize marijuana and half your problems will go away in the hood.
I was thinking the same thing. And waaaay in the back, camoflaged behind the tomato bushes....
Weed was on my mind too, for the White House garden...."Sorry girls, that part of the garden is for Mom & Dad only" :)
So will a bunch of forest fires started by illegal aliens camping out in our national parks growing it for the drug lords to sell to us. I'm in CA and have a Medical M card. It's about 1/2 the price or less of street pot and much better quality and consistency.
It's amazing that people get busted for smoking it while the very people that bust them can go into any liquor or grocery store and get booze or cigarettes. They are even worse! The blatant discrimination it takes to continue to make it illegal is mind boggling! Maybe that's something that should go before the Supreme Court since Obama continues to harass CA for having Medical Marijuana.
How does the white house keep the bugs from eating the plants?
They let GOP members of congress eat the bugs in the garden, as they're all bottom feeders
Great bug response. A lot of good protein for the GOP, affordable health care for the Repubs.
Barry has probably got some dank marijuana growing out there too.
While he has the Fed harass CA for legalizing it for medical uses. I am so fed up with him! He sure dances a good tune for his puppetmasters. So does Romney! Scoundrels all!
They truly are scoundrels! I think the price of admission to High Political Office in this country is one soul per person.
If the first lady really cares about the health of our children she should lead the movement to label Genetically Modified food. Pres. Obama promised this and has not followed through. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zqaaB6NE1TI
Obama has failed to follow through on a lot of campaign promises.
FYI, short of Twinkies which are made of nothing from nature, all food is genetically modified. Y'know when you eat those specially bred heirloom peas or whatever, "specially bred" is a type of genetic modification. Unless you're picking it or shooting it in the wild, all food has been genetically modified through breeding. Not to mention the GM crops you talk about have saved untold millions from starvation over the last half century.
Untold millions that shouldn't have been born in the first place! If people can't feed and support the kids they produce in a reasonable manner up to adulthood, they have no business even having them in the first place! Irresponsible reproduction is how we became overpopulated!
Well, given the fact that there are about 7 billion people living on Earth, and there's about 140,000,000 cubic kilometers of land, I don't think we're going to be running out of space soon. If all else fails, I call the northern hemisphere of the moon.
Yes there is a lot of land, but much of that is inhabitable. Also, you're not accounting for animals.
Hybrids and grafted plants are NOT genetically modified. Genetic modification is a process where genes are spliced into a plant through recombinant DNA organisms in a laboratory.
Hybridization is simply a way of picking plants based on their characteristics and growing those. Grafts are physically splicing one plant to another to get the benefits of insect resistance at the base while having the flowering part above.
Everything domestic (grown in a field) has been genetically modified over the past hundred thousand years by humans. We just know how to do it faster now using newer scientific discoveries.
Go ahead and vote for Romney, I am sure that he will take care of it. RIght after he dismantles the EPA and the FDA.
Both worthless organizations, just like the Democrats.
he also promised to bring the country together and he has purposely torn it apart
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