Book Talk: Michelle Obama on White House kitchen garden

Tue Jun 12, 2012 6:30pm EDT
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By Deborah Charles

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. first lady Michelle Obama has adopted healthy eating and fighting childhood obesity as one of her pet causes.

Her first book, "American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America," tells of her experiences planting the first vegetable garden at the White House since Eleanor Roosevelt and shares other stories of other community gardens across the country.

Obama, who did not accept an advance and will donate all author proceeds to the National Park Foundation, sat down with Reuters before her first and only book signing, at a Barnes & Noble near the White House.

Q: What inspired you to write the book?

A: My own experiences being a mom, trying to feed my kids right. What I realized when I started making some simple changes like ... adding more fruits and vegetables. Getting the kids to farmers markets. Engaging them in the process of understanding where their food was coming from. They took an interest, and their health outcomes changed pretty dramatically.

I thought, if I don't know these things, what's going on in other households where people have less information, fewer resources? So I started thinking about how a garden could begin a really good conversation ... The book is another extension of the garden. It's open to the public and it's in a place where the public can see it. But there are so many people around the country who have heard about the garden, who are curious about it, and they'll never have the chance to see it.

I wanted it to be a beautiful book with wonderful pictures that would draw people in, particularly kids. We tried to make this book pretty user-friendly so that kids would open it up and get engaged just from the pictures. And we wanted to tell other stories ... There are thousands of wonderful community gardens all across the country. I had visited some and I wanted to tell that story too, and also use the book as a way to talk about the work that we're doing with childhood obesity and childhood health (the "Let's Move" initiative). So when we talk about that, we throw in a few recipes.

Q: Which is your favorite recipe?   Continued...

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama attends a book signing of her first book "American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America," at a book store in Washington June 12, 2012. REUTERS/Jason Reed