First lady Michelle Obama tasked 30 fifth-grade students with planting seeds in the White House Kitchen Garden Thursday, located on the South Lawn of the complex.
The garden is regularly tended to and harvested by White House staff and the National Park Service.
Obama only invited students from schools that implemented her new rules for healthy school lunches, presumably as a reward for their loyalty.
“Today, the garden is planted, tended and harvested by Mrs. Obama, White House staff, the National Park Service and visitors,” according to the official government website for Mrs. Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign. The garden reportedly provides food for the first family’s meals.
“The White House grounds crew and the kitchen staff will do most of the work, but other White House staff members have volunteered,” according to a New York Times profile of the garden’s launch in 2009.
A White House staffer also tends to two bee hives for honey on the garden’s grounds.
Mrs. Obama started the garden at taxpayer expense to encourage healthy lifestyles among America’s youth. The vegetable garden, the first of its kind since Eleanor Roosevelt’s White House “victory garden,” grows at least five different varieties of lettuces, including red romaine and green oak leaf, as well as spinach, black kale, berries, and more exotic herbs like anise hyssop and Thai basil.
“The scent also has notes of lemon, pine, sage, black pepper, and camphor, so it’s nice and complex,” according to an alchemy-works.com entry on the anise hyssop. “The leaves or flowers are edible and can be used to sweeten tea or flavor sugar or quickbreads and muffins (add 1/2 cup chopped fresh flowers). Add the leaves to fruit salads or steep them in milk for flavoring when making ice cream.”
Though the cost of seeds and mulch to launch the garden reportedly only cost $200 in 2009, according to the New York Times, it is unclear how many staff hours and taxpayer dollars are spent on the tending of the garden by White House staff and the National Park Service.
Though 11-year old Ariana Docanto did not get to tour the White House, she reportedly characterized her experience planting wheat for the Obama family’s bread and rissoto as “Amazing!”