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Somerville students join Michelle Obama in planting White House garden

Posted by Your Town  April 4, 2013 06:42 PM

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Michelle Obama hands Bread Wheat seeds to Ariana Docanto, a 5th grader at the Arthur D. Healey School in Somerville. Associated Press photo

Students from the Arthur D. Healey School in Somerville joined other kids from around the country to help Michelle Obama with some gardening at the White House on Thursday.

The first lady on Thursday planted lettuce and other crops in her garden on the South Lawn of the White House, with an assist from schoolchildren from the Healey school, and from several other school districts around the country.

Two varieties of wheat were planted for the first time: club wheat and bread wheat.

The lettuce should be ready in a couple of weeks. The wheat will need until at least July to grow.

Other crops now growing in the garden are spinach, kale, Swiss chard, endive, potatoes, radishes, garlic, fennel, broccoli, cauliflower, collard greens and herbs, along with raspberries, blueberries, strawberries and an apple tree.

‘‘Are you ready to go?’’ the first lady asked the kids after she met them at the garden on a crisp, sunny afternoon.

Besides the Healey students, students who attend school in Bradenton, Fla., Knox County, Tenn., and Milton, Vt., were invited, she said, because their districts are doing ‘‘such wonderful things’’ to put in place new federal nutrition standards for school lunches.

Somerville schools received an invitation from the first lady's office two weeks ago, schools spokeswoman Susana Herandez Morgan said. Five students were chosen because they are active in the Healey School's community garden program, and also have gardens at home, Herandez Morgan said earlier this week.

The city's Shape Up Somerville program has previously received recognition from the president's wife, who is focused on fighting childhood obesity.

The five students were Ariana Docanto, Gabriela Lopez Arias, Sarah Sweeting, Lana Popovic, and Brian Chan.

The first lady personally planted rows of wheat, spinach and kale, with help from a few students. Other students planted the remaining crops, with an assist from White House staff members. Also helping were military veterans in training for careers in sustainable agriculture.

Mrs. Obama planted the garden in 2009 to help launch her campaign against childhood obesity and encourage healthier eating. She says involving children in the growing of fruits and vegetables makes it more likely that they will eat them, too.

The garden so far has produced more than 3,000 pounds of food. The White House gives some to a local soup kitchen.

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