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The White House

Remarks by the First Lady from farmer's market

Office of the First Lady
For Immediate Release                                                 September 17, 2009
FRESHFARM Farmers’ Market
Washington, D.C.
3:19 P.M. EDT
MRS. OBAMA: All right, I have to say, I have never seen so many people so excited about fruits and vegetables. (Laughter.) This is a very, very good thing, and it's raining outside and everybody's pumped up. This is good! (Applause.)
I want to thank Tom for that kind introduction and for all that he has done on behalf of our nation's farmers and on behalf of all of our families. We couldn't have done this without him. We have to give him a big round of applause. (Applause.)
I also want to thank Ann and Bernie for all their hard work in making this farmers' market a reality, and I want to thank Mark and Clare as well for joining us today, and their family, all their hard work. (Applause.) We're so glad that these programs, these markets, are really spurring local farmers throughout the nation, in particular, in our own area.
And I also want to thank our mayor, Mayor Fenty, for all that he is doing for our new hometown, D.C. (Applause.) You know, when we decided to plant the White House garden, we thought it would be a great way to educate kids about eating more healthy. Right, kids? Vegetables? (Applause.) Yay for vegetables! But as it turned out, the garden has turned into so much more than we could have ever expected, and it's a really fun thing to do as well. This has been one of the greatest things that I've done in my life so far. It's just been a tremendous honor, and working with the kids in the D.C. community and hearing how they've learned and how they're growing and how they're sharing the information with their families just warms my heart and makes me hopeful for the future.
And it's important to know that when I travel around the world, no matter where I've gone so far, the first thing world leaders, prime ministers, kings, queens ask me about is the White House garden. (Applause.) And then they ask about Bo. (Laughter.) Everybody, it's the garden and Bo, or Bo and the garden, one or the other.
But seriously, as we look at tackling some of the biggest health problems that our nation faces, like obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and related issues like access to primary care and preventative health services -- (applause) -- I've realized that little things like a garden can actually play a role in all of these larger discussions. They make us think about these issues in a way that maybe sometimes the policy conversations don't allow us to think. And it has truly inspired me and the White House staff to look for opportunities to put the topic of healthy eating right on the table and at the forefront of health care discussions. And this is one of the reasons why we're here today, why we're here supporting this effort today.
I originally came to this issue, as many of you know if you've read anything about me and health, really, like most people, as a parent. I've got these two beautiful girls, and before we -- (applause) -- and before we lived in this beautiful house down the street, we lived on the South Side of Chicago. And like most parents, I was a working mother trying to put it all together, and I gradually learned that what I put -- the food that I put on my table truly affects the health of my children in some fundamental ways. If affects not only what they eat but their habits, how they think about food. And I've learned that when my family eats fresh food, healthy food, that it really affects how we feel, how we get through the day, and that's whether we're trying to get through math homework or whether there's a Cabinet meeting or whether we're just walking the dog. The kind of food that we put into our body gives us the energy to get through the day.
But I also have learned through my experiences that as a working mother that there are times when putting together a healthy meal is harder than you might imagine. It is not so easy.
So, like many parents, when I was working, without the staff and the butlers and all the people who are helping me now, I was just like you all. Takeout food was a primary part of our diet. It was quick. (Laughter.) It was easy. We did what was easiest and what kids liked, because you didn't want to hear them whining. (Laughter.) So -- right? We're just trying to end the whining. (Laughter.)
And sometimes it turns out that the food that is least healthy for us can sometimes be the cheapest. And even with the best intentions, as I know all of us are -- we all care about our kids, doesn't matter what our salaries are or what our positions are. We care about our kids and we're doing the best that we can for them and with the best of intentions. In this society today sometimes it's hard to make regular meals, healthy meals, a part of everyone's existence.
And this is one of the reasons why I'm so supportive of farmers' markets. For those of us who are battling the time crunch and those for us whom access to fresh food is an issue in our neighborhoods, farmers' markets are a really important, valuable resource that we have to support.
This market, in particular, will provide access to fresh fruits and vegetables, locally raised meats, cheeses, fresh-baked goods to the many busy people who are working and living in this area, including many federal employees, who I know you are working your fingers to the bones, right? (Applause.) And we appreciate it.
So this market is going to be available to many D.C. federal employees from the White House, Veterans Affairs, GSA -- (applause) -- the Export-Import Bank -- (applause) -- the Treasury Department. Oh. Sorry. (Laughter.) They will have access to the food, too.
And as an employer -- I guess we are an employer now, out of the White House -- we are looking for ways to create a healthier workforce, because we know that if you all are healthy and happy and moving, you'll come to work and you'll work really hard. And as many private companies have demonstrated, making employee wellness a priority can save health care costs down the road and make for a stronger workplace.
For everyone in the neighborhood, you can now run out for an afternoon --
MRS. OBAMA: Yes -- (laughter) -- when you have that break and pick up some good stuff for dinner or stop by as you run to catch the subway home from work. Farmers' markets are a simple but major ingredient in solving access issues in many communities. And for those who think that fresh fruits and vegetables are out of their reach financially, as the Secretary mentioned, and I want to reinforce the fact that this market and other farmers' markets around the city participate in the WIC program, the SNAP program, the Double Dollar program, and the Seniors benefits program. And each SNAP and WIC dollar equals two dollars at a farmers' market to purchase fresh produce. (Applause.) So that's something -- and we want to get that word out as well.
So if you know people who have access to these benefits, they should understand that these farmers' markets are there for them as well. And there is an incentive for them to use and buy their fruits and vegetables here. So we want to get that word out.
And farmers' markets do more than just help Americans feed their families healthy meals. They help America's family farmers, as you've met some of our great farmers here, and you'll get to know them. That's the good thing about farmers' markets. You get to know the people who grow your food, how they do it, you know, who they are as people. That makes a huge difference. These farmers provide a critically important role in feeding this nation. Small and mid-size farmers grow the fruits and vegetables that we find on our supermarket shelves as well and at farmers' markets, and they are an important part of creating a healthier environment, healthier communities, and healthier families, and we have to support them.
And I want to thank all of the farmers and all the purveyors who have come out today to make this market such a wonderful, wonderful resource for this community. Events like this one are more than just about the opportunity to provide good food. It's also about creating better communities.
We know that when we start coming out to these markets, we're going to start talking to each other. We're going to talk about, where'd you get those peaches, and which stand, and let me try them, and what's fresh. We talk to each other in different ways.
So this market is not just about food. It's about our community. And this is just the beginning of the discussion. (Applause.)
So I want to thank everybody on the stage. I want to thank all of you for your excitement and your energy in standing in the rain. And now it's time to buy some food. (Applause.) Thank you all so much. Let's shop!
3:29 P.M. EDT