By: Eric Mittenthal Date: 10/11/12
Last week I was honored to be one of just 17 people selected to go to the White House for the first ever Let’s Move tweetup. The tweetup was arranged to coincide with the White House garden harvest hosted by First Lady Michelle Obama. Hopefully you followed all my tweets and pictures on the day itself, but if not, here are some of my takeaways from the experience and some of the pictures I took.
Introducing Let’s Move
The tweetup group came from a varied background with lots of different perspectives and experience with Let’s Move, so one of the best parts of our day was the opportunity to sit down and hear from Judith Palfrey, Let’s Move’s new Executive Director, and Jocelyn Frye, the First Lady’s Director of Policy and Special Projects. What impressed me most about their comments on Let’s Move was the desire to make it all inclusive. There’s no one thing that’s going to solve our obesity epidemic, and there’s no one group to work with to improve our diet and exercise habits. The Let’s Move team made it clear that they want to work with anyone and everyone from industry to consumers to help make a difference. They also recognize that obesity not a problem that will be solved tomorrow. It will take years of work to make a difference, and they’re prepared to put in the time to do it.
Touring the Garden
Of course the highlight of our tour was the White House garden itself with our tour guide Sam Kass, Assistant White House Chef and Food Initiative Coordinator. There’s been some debate since the garden was planted a few years ago whether it is an organic garden or not. Though I knew the answer already, I asked Kass whether the garden is organic or not, and I liked his answer. Kass said that it is not, though organic vs. conventional production is not an issue that they care to focus on. Instead the garden is an educational place for kids where they can learn about different fruits and vegetables and get excited about eating them. On the day’s menu after the harvest was a grilled garden pizza topped with eggplant, sweet potatoes, red pepper, and squash and the kids definitely seemed to enjoy it.
Whipping Up a My Plate Friendly Meal In the White House Kitchen
Our final stop of the day was the White House kitchen where we were greeted by Executive Chef Cristeta Comerford. For a kitchen that prepares food for thousands at state dinners and other events, it was surprisingly small. Chef Comerford showed off how easy it can be to make a My Plate friendly meal, with a whole wheat pita, some grilled chimichurri chicken, lettuce, tomato and onions and hummus. The meal took about 10 minutes to prepare and looked delicious. My only quibble with the day, which was also brought up by a colleague of mine was that Chef Comerford did not use a food thermometer when cooking the chicken. That’s certainly not an example our friends at the USDA Food Safety & Inspection Service would be happy about! Obviously, Let’s Move is primarily a diet and physical activity focused initiative, but hopefully there will be some inclusion of food safety as the program grows.
At the End of the Day
At the end of the day, the Let’s Move tweetup was an amazing experience. It’s not every day that you get to go into the White House and tour areas and talk to people specifically relevant to your day to day job, and I am incredibly thankful that I was invited to join. I was also fortunate to meet 16 other people with diverse backgrounds and interesting perspectives that they brought to the tweetup. I made the comment that the Let’s Move team needs to make the tweetup a regular event and of course invite us back as the original group for the spring planting. I’m not holding my breath for that to happen, but if I got that opportunity? You better believe I would jump at it!
For more of my pictures from the day please visit our Facebook page and of course follow us on twitter, @IFICMedia & @FoodInsight