On Tuesday, May 28, First Lady Michelle Obama welcomed students returning to the White House Kitchen Garden for the second time in as many months with an enthusiastic remark on the results of a joint Kitchen Garden planting effort on April 4, 2013. Five Healey School students, Ariana Docanto, Gaby Lopez, Sarah Sweeting, Brian Chan and Lana Popovic, were among a group of 25 students returning to the White House to help harvest what they had planted less than two months prior.
“Look what you did – it grew!” stated the First Lady as she pointed to the White House Kitchen Garden.
Returning students from the Healey School as well as students from the Sarah Moore Greene Magnet Academy (Tennessee), Milton Elementary (Vermont), Harriet Tubman Elementary and Bancroft Elementary Schools (DC) were joined by students from New Jersey whose schools were damaged during Hurricane Sandy. Students from Long Beach Island Elementary (Ship Bottom) and from Union Beach Memorial School joined the returning group to harvest a variety of vegetables, make flatbread veggie pizzas, and enjoy lunch on the White House Kitchen Garden picnic tables with the First Lady.
“What an amazing opportunity for our Healey students – and for all the students who were part of this incredible event,” commented Superintendent of Schools, Tony Pierantozzi. “We were thrilled when we got the call from the White House back in April inviting our students to be part of the First Lady’s Let’s Move! initiative by bringing five students to help plant the Kitchen Garden. Imagine our shock when the second call came in less than two months later, inviting them back to help harvest what they planted and enjoy the fruits of their labor. We are so grateful to the First Lady and her staff not only for hosting us, but also for placing an emphasis on this important issue and ensuring that young people feel the positive impact of healthy choices by actively engaging them in the process. We are also truly appreciative of this community’s incredible work and partnerships in promoting health and wellness among Somerville youth.”
Students from the Healey School were selected to represent the Somerville Public Schools at the April Garden Planting event due to the school’s ongoing commitment and consistent efforts in promoting healthy lifestyles and nutrition through hands-on educational gardening opportunities to students, and participation in the district’s various healthy nutrition initiatives. All five students are involved in school gardening and other wellness efforts. District school gardens are managed by Groundwork Somerville.
Chris Mancini, Executive Director of Groundwork Somerville (GWS), was part of the Somerville contingent at Tuesday’s White House event, along with Healey School Principal Jill Geiser and Somerville Public Schools District Administrator Susana H. Morgan. Groundwork Somerville is a critical partner in School Garden efforts throughout the District, managing School Gardens including coordinating volunteers to plant and maintain the Gardens and providing staff to teach a 10-week curriculum each season. Other educational programs offered by GWS include the popular Maple Syrup Project, Garden Youth Crew, and the “Spring into Action” April Vacation Week program. GWS works with community members and partners to promote “…environmental, economic and social well-being…” through sustainable improvements and management of the environment. For more information about GWS, visit www.groundworksomerville.org.
“We are extremely fortunate to have a First Lady who continues to advocate and lay the groundwork for creating a healthier nation, beginning with her Let’s Move! initiative aimed at addressing childhood obesity,” said Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone. “In Somerville, we have a commitment to making the healthy choice the easy choice, particularly within our schools. With the addition of school gardens, students are gaining hands-on experience and reconnecting with the source of their food, and the First Lady continues to reinforce the importance of those values as we have seen through her generous invitations to our students this year. I thank First Lady Michelle Obama and President Barack Obama for their continued leadership on this important issue.”
Under Mayor Curtatone’s and Superintendent Pierantozzi’s leadership, the City of Somerville and the Somerville Public Schools have become national models for health and wellness in our communities. Shape Up Somerville, the Mayor’s city-wide campaign to promote healthy eating and physical fitness through programming, infrastructure improvements and policy work, has received national recognition from the First Lady’s Let’s Move! initiative. Shape Up Somerville began as a research study in partnership with Tufts University in 2002, targeting 1st through 3rd grade SPS students. A nationally-recognized initiative, Shape Up Somerville now includes efforts throughout the City that promote healthy eating such as Shape Up Approved restaurants, Urban Agriculture connections, and Farmers Mobile Markets; infrastructure improvements such as Community Path Extensions, and Walkable/Bikeable Paths; Healthcare Partnerships; and Policy improvements. For more information about Shape Up Somerville, visit www.somervillema.gov/departments/health/sus.
Children from “…schools that have made exceptional improvements to school lunches through implementation of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act…” were selected to participate in the initial Garden Planting event in April. The Somerville Public Schools Food and Nutrition Services department has had great success with healthy school meals, and a Farm to School program that includes events such as taste-testing, recipe samplings, “corn shucking day” and nutrition education programs provided by UMass Extension. Students at the Healey School and throughout the District enjoy healthy lunches, including a fresh salad bar option at many schools. Healthy breakfast is also available daily to all students.