Michelle Obama: How big is her green influence?

Michelle Obama: How big is her green influence?

By Alison van Diggelen, host of Fresh Dialogues

How much influence does First Lady Michelle Obama have on the President and his green policies? I put this question to David Axelrod, President Obama’s chief political strategist and his answer was candid: ENORMOUS.

Michelle Obama is well known for her Let’s Move campaign which puts good eating and anti-obesity front and center, so it’s easy to imagine this talented Harvard educated lawyer and mentor in chief is also making her views heard in the White House on issues beyond healthy eating and healthy living….including the health of the planet, climate change and even energy policy.

It was her organic kitchen garden at the White House which put Michelle Obama’s true (green) colors in the international spotlight in 2009. Fans have applauded her bold green action – planting the first kitchen garden since Eleanor Roosevelt’s Victory Garden – but Obama’s raised beds of organic arugula, spinach and Thai basil also caused a firestorm of complaint in the agriculture industry. It even inspired a priceless Little Shop of Horrors segment on the Daily Show.

In April this year, just in time for Earth Day, Michelle Obama’s first book American Grown, will be released and we’ll learn more from the First Lady about how her daughters, Malia and Sasha inspired her to rethink healthy eating and develop green thumbs. Like legendary chef, Alice Waters, she believes that increased access to healthy, affordable food can promote better eating habits and improve health of families and communities across America.

In a New York Times article, Obama explained her kitchen garden rationale. For children, she said, food is all about taste, and fresh and local food tastes better.

“A real delicious heirloom tomato is one of the sweetest things that you’ll ever eat,” she said. “And my children know the difference, and that’s how I’ve been able to get them to try different things.

“I wanted to be able to bring what I learned to a broader base of people. And what better way to do it than to plant a vegetable garden in the South Lawn of the White House?”

For his part, David Axelrod declares that the vegetables served at White House dinners are tasty but attributes it to both the organic garden and the wonderful White House chefs.

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