Uptown Soul Food Heads to DC for ‘Let’s Move’ #TweetUp & Fall Harvest

101_3884By Takia McClendon

Ever wonder who cooks up the delicious meals that are served to the First Family? Or just how much food is grown in the popular White House Kitchen Garden? Well wonder no more! Uptown Soul Food had the opportunity to participate in the 1st ever Let’s Move! White House Tweet-Up (#WHTweetup). Lets Move!  is an initiative of the First Lady that “combats the epidemic of childhood obesity through a comprehensive approach”. The White House selected about 15 active Twitter followers of Let’s Move! (@LetsMove) to join a full day of activities including the third annual Fall Harvest. The group of followers all had distinct backgrounds, hailed from different regions of our country but all shared a common vision of ending childhood obesity. Amongst the group were students, parents, bloggers, consultants, nonprofit organization leaders, local politicians and more.

101_3895The sun bounced off the perfectly cut grass of the White House lawn on October 5th.  The blue sky and mild temperature set the tone for what turned out to be the perfect day for a fall harvest in Washington, D.C. As White House employees put finishing touches on three picnic tables covered in old-fashioned red and white checkered tablecloths, the #LetsMove tweeps had the opportunity to meet Sam Kass, the Senior Policy Advisor for Healthy Food Initiatives and chef who left Chicago with the Obamas for a new home at the White House. Working hand-in-hand with First Lady Michelle Obama, Chef Kass has watched the Kitchen Garden grow into one of the most productive White House gardens since the 1890s. The garden’s popularity has made its produce a hot commodity amongst the First Family, international guests, local schools and area non-profit organizations. Just over a few short years, the Kitchen Garden has grown tremendously without ever losing sight on educating our country’s children. Although Chef Kass has described his experience in the garden as “amazing”, he pointed out that this growing season has been one of the most difficult due to extreme temperatures and strong storms.

Despite the season’s shortfalls, the White House Kitchen Garden was booming with sweet potatoes, peppers, beans, eggplants, herbs and many other vegetables awaiting the First Lady and students from Bancroft Elementary School and Harriet Tubman Elementary School to begin the annual harvest.

#LetsMove tweeps stood by as the elementary school students collected the ingredients needed to prepare vegetable pizza for lunch. The healthy dish, which most of us are not accustomed to, embodies a few of the five pillars of the First Lady’s Let’s Move! initiative which are to: 1. Create a healthy start for children, 2. Empower parents and caretakers, 3. Provide healthy foods in schools, 4. Improve access to healthy foods and 5. Increase physical activity.

Smiling from ear to ear, the children began to make their way through the White House lawn towards the garden. They mingled with some essential White House employees as they patiently waited for Mrs. Obama to arrive. When the First Lady arrived to the Kitchen Garden, the children were overwhelmed with joy and excitement. When the First Lady asked the students, “Why are you here today?”, the students responded, “to learn about eating healthy” and “to make pizza!”. After a brief introduction, the Fall Harvest was underway.

While waiting for the Fall Harvest to begin, the #LetsMove Tweeps spoke with the White House Beekeeper, Charlie Brandts, about the importance that bees have on our nation’s food supply. According to Charlie, 1 of every 3 bites of food can be thanked to bee pollination-even cheeseburgers! In addition to pollinating the Kitchen Garden, the White House bees have produced hundreds of pounds of honey, some of which has been used in the White House home-brewed beer.

Tweeps spoke with Jocelyn Frye, Michelle Obama’s Policy Adviser, about the policy behind the Let’s Move! campaign. Frye believes that “healthy eating issues spread across ethnic barriers and party lines” which leaves room for community members, health care professionals, local politicians, schools and even celebrities to take an active role in combating childhood obesity. She also discussed the urgency of teaching nutrition education at early developmental stages to increase interest amongst younger children. Her statements made the case for the importance of events like the annual Fall Harvest that exposes young children to healthy alternatives.

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By the end of the Fall Harvest, the #LetsMove Tweeps were exhausted but excited to join Executive Chef Christeta Comerford in the White House kitchen. Chef Comerford showed us the importance of incorporating MyPlate into our everyday lives. She was very aware of the lifestyle that many of us lived so she introduced us to a quick, healthy meal that would satisfy our nutritional needs and our palates. She put together a whole-grain grilled chicken wrap that was topped with apples,  humus, and freshly picked lettuce and tomatoes from the Kitchen Garden. She demonstrated how easy it is to include protein, veggies, fruit and carbohydrates into our daily diets, even for those of us who adhere to special vegan or gluten-free diets.

After a long day of events, the #LetsMove #WHTweetup had come to an end. It was truly a great experience meeting so many individuals from across the nation that all share a vision of improving our nation’s health. Follow the #LetsMove #WHTweetup Tweeps on Twitter for information about our visit to the White House and updates on what people are doing throughout the country to end childhood obesity within the generation.

If you are interested in learning more about the Let’s Move! campaign, visit the Let’s Move! website for materials and resources.

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