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First lady Michelle Obama welcomed fifth-graders back to the White House garden Tuesday to pick the lettuce and peas they helped plant in the spring.

The harvest was the culmination of an ongoing project with Bancroft Elementary School. Many of the students had helped the first lady to plant the vegetable garden in April. And she, in turn, had visited the garden at their school in Washington last month.

Mrs. Obama knelt in the dirt and supervised the children in cutting several varieties of lettuce. She also demonstrated the pleasure of eating raw sweet peas.

“It tastes great doesn’t it when the vegetables are fresh?” she asked. “We all have to have vegetables every single day, every day.”

Together the group harvested 73-pounds of lettuce and 12-pounds of peas from the 1,100-square-foot, L-shaped plot on the South Lawn.

Assistant White House chef Sam Kass said the garden has also produced beans, kale, collard greens, chard and herbs. He said the kitchen had been serving the beans from the garden every other day and herbs every night.

Later Mrs. Obama joined several of the children in the gleaming stainless steel White House kitchen, where she helped shell the newly harvested peas for a healthy meal. Other children assisted the White House chefs in preparing brown rice and baked chicken.

Outside other fifth-graders made salad using the newly picked lettuce and decorated cupcakes baked with honey instead of sugar.

Then the first lady helped set picnic tables for the meal, which she called a reward for their gardening.

“Today is really the culmination of a lot of hard work,” she said.

Mrs. Obama said she hopes the garden project educated parents and children across the country about the importance of fruits and vegetables.

“Too many kids are consuming high-calorie food with low nutritional value, and they’re not getting enough exercise,” she said. “My hope is that this garden, through it we can continue to make the connection between what we eat and how we feel and how healthy we are.”

She said adding more fresh produce to her family’s diet made them all feel more energetic.

The first lady acknowledged that fresh fruits and vegetables are difficult for families in some urban and rural communities to obtain. She praised community garden projects for “taking matters into their own hands.”

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