Though the subtitle of Michelle Obama's new book, American Grown, promises "the story of the White House Kitchen Garden and gardens across America," its pages are more free-ranging than that -- just as the garden itself is also a way to engage the nation in a larger discussion about how what we eat and the way we live affects our children (the basis of Mrs. Obama's Lets Move! initiative). On these topics the First Lady is passionate and practical -- a style that mirrors her approach to parenthood in general, as Parents learned in this exclusive interview.
Q. Why did you write American Grown?
A. There is such a great curiosity about the White House garden, and it's turned out to be one of the most profound things I will do as First Lady: digging up some dirt.
We have tons of visitors, but not everyone gets a chance to hear the story or to hear about the journey we went through in making that garden possible and how it's impacted the conversation about health and nutrition -- so we wanted to share that story.
Q. Now that we're two years into Lets Move! are there certain aspects of it Parents readers should be taking advantage of?
A. The biggest thing for parents is understanding that this issue is real, that we are seeing increased rates of obesity in our children and communities all across this country. We are encouraging parents to arm themselves with information about the issue and also with solutions. However, there's no one solution for fixing this complicated problem. There are small and meaningful changes that parents can make in their lives that will make all the difference: drinking more water, incorporating more fruits and vegetables, using MyPlate (choosemyplate.gov) as a template for figuring out how to structure meals, finding creative ways to get our kids moving, being advocates in schools by paying attention to what's being served and not being afraid to be a voice for the changes we want to see. Let's Move! is not about government telling people what to do but about providing the info they need in their own lives.
Q. It's inspiring to me that you and the president are able to sit down at 6:30 for a family dinner most nights of the week.
A. As a country, we've kind of lost the sense that that's important. Many of us grew up with those habits intact. I share stories about my own upbringing: We sat down at the little kitchen table, and no matter what my parents were doing or how much they were earning or not earning, sitting down together was important and something we took for granted. Society has pushed us in a different direction because parents are so busy. TV is pervasive, and there are so many distractions that keep families from doing those basic things. I hope Let's Move! has been a reminder to get us back to the simple things we took for granted but that were the foundation that helped us lead healthy lives when we were young. We need to pass these traditions on to the next generation.