There's something new in the White House vegetable garden this spring.
Sam Kass, who was recently named Executive Director of "Let's Move!" the nutrition initiative of First Lady Michelle Obama, says this spring he planted wheat in the White House garden.
Before you get too excited, it wasn't much wheat. Two plots, each about 10 feet wide and 20 feet long will provide the Oval Office's first wheat harvest.
Kass says he planted some "hard red spring wheat" and some "club wheat" both of them experimental varieties of which he declined to provide origins.
Kass says he isn't worried about how he'll harvest the bounty of his plot, making "snip, snip" scissors motions with his hands when questioned about the mechanics of cutting, drying and threshing the crop.
He said the goal is to make "bread and cracked wheat biscotti" from the crop, but he didn't offer specifics on how the crop might be milled.
He also suggested that an alternative might be using the garden bounty for the production of home-brewed beer.
Far higher on his agenda of things to talk about is the overall success of getting America to focus more on fresh fruits and vegetables and eating healthier overall.
"We now have documentation that kids are consuming fewer calories than they did a decade ago," he said. "Seed sellers say they are seeing a continuous increase in sales of vegetable seed. Farmers are getting a whole new high profile as heroes in our society. All of this is good."
Kass said the healthy food movement has been successful in getting high profile retailers, including Wal-Mart to agree to add more produce choices at lower cost and to drop the prices on healthier choices of foods, such as whole grain breads and pasta.
"We are happy to report that Wal-Mart is now selling whole grain spaghetti at the same price as regular spaghetti," he said. "That is something that gives consumers a real choice about what to buy. They don't have to pay a premium to eat something that is better for you."
Kass emphasized that the purpose of the White House garden is educating children about where food comes from, what it takes to grow it and what kinds of food are healthy. A secondary benefit, he said, his the produce that provides fresh vegetables for the White House and the first family as well as Washington, D.C. charities.
"For the First Lady, this is first and foremost about education," he said. "She wants kids to have a focus on where food comes from and on healthy eating. She is coming at this from the perspective of a mother who wants information and options to do the right thing for her kids and she wants to share that with mothers all over America."
Over the next several months, Kass said there will be emphasis on urban "food deserts" where it is difficult for families to find healthy food,
"When you depend on gas stations and liquor stores for your food supply, you aren't going to find the things that are healthy for children," he said. "We want to see more grocery options for families that live in inner city neighborhoods. Part of our initiative with Wal-Mart has involved a commitment to have a presence that offers wholesome foods to those communities."
Kass said he is aware that the mandates for healthier school lunches have met with some resistance.
"I think there is an obligation on our part to let parents who are trying their best to teach their children good eating habits know that their work is not going to be undermined when they send their kids to school," he said. "Just because kids are immediately familiar with some foods doesn't mean they shouldn't be offered."