WHITE HOUSE —
First lady Michelle Obama joined elementary school students from around the United States on Wednesday to mark the harvest of the White House Kitchen Garden.
When the event was moved inside the White House because of the weather, Obama joined the children in making a salad using vegetables from the garden, which was planted on the South Lawn earlier this year.
The White House Kitchen Garden is part of the first lady’s efforts to promote healthful eating among Americans and helped launch her Let’s Move! initiative in 2010, aimed at preventing childhood obesity by encouraging kids to be more physically active. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the childhood obesity rate in the United States increased from 7 percent in 1980 to nearly 18 percent in 2012.
Obama also used the event to announce the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge, aimed at reversing the decline of pollinating insects such as bees and monarch butterflies. The White House is collaborating with the National Pollinator Garden Network, made up of nearly 1 million gardeners and 15,000 school gardens, to challenge the country to reach the goal of 1 million additional pollinator gardens by the end of 2016.
“One out of every three bits of food that we take in this country is the result of a pollinator garden somewhere,” Obama told the students. “Butterflies, bats, bees, birds — all of those, they get attracted to the gardens, and then they go and sprinkle life around so that food grows.”
President Barack Obama recently released the National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators, aimed at restoring pollinator populations to healthy levels.
Disease, loss of habitat and climate change are among the factors that scientists say have contributed to a decline in bee health and a loss of colonies. The White House strategy looks to reduce honeybee colony losses during winter to no more than 15 percent within 10 years.
The population of monarch butterflies that once numbered nearly 1 billion has declined some 90 percent in the last two decades. Environmentalists have called on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list the butterfly as endangered. The Obama administration aims to increase the eastern population of the monarch butterfly to 225 million occupying an area of approximately 6 hectares in the overwintering grounds in Mexico.