First lady Melania Trump held her first event in the White House Kitchen Garden on Friday, donning a plaid shirt and coordinating red gloves to pull up leeks and plant kale along with children from a local Boys & Girls Club.
The garden, which then-first lady Michelle Obama established in 2009 as part of her healthy eating initiative, is closely identified with the previous administration, so Trump’s decision to embrace it is noteworthy.
“I’m a big believer in healthy eating,” she said before walking through the garden. “I encourage you to eat a lot of vegetables and fruits. It is part of healthy living.”
Obama regularly held events in the garden and wrote her first book, “American Grown,” about her experience of planting it. During planting and harvesting events there, she also put on gardening gloves and pulled carrots and other vegetables out of the ground alongside schoolchildren for the cameras.
Obama’s campaigns advocating for healthy living and fresh foods became an unlikely partisan flashpoint, mocked in some conservative circles, and whether her garden would endure in future administrations was an open question. Before the Obamas left office, she added a couple of permanent structures, including an archway, a seating area — and an engraved stone commemorating her 2009 founding of the garden.
Trump hosted 10 children in the garden Friday, a much smaller group than Obama often welcomed, but her gathering, in 80-degree temperatures, felt much like the garden events of the past, with White House chefs and National Park Service staff members on hand. “They are cooking delicious food and they are using these vegetables as well,” Trump said, introducing the chefs.
She also asked the children — all ages 10 or 11 — their favorite vegetables, and strolled through the garden with one girl, briefly draping her arm around her shoulder.
“Nice,” Trump said, admiring a large okra.
She knelt in the dirt to help plant kale. The children also planted cabbage, cauliflower, turnips, carrots, spinach and lettuce.
They each left with a small bottle of White House honey — yes, the executive beehive is still in operation. And the first lady gifted each child with a White House-branded gardening kit.
“It was time to harvest/plant, so she wanted to be able to include children in the process,” Stephanie Grisham, Trump’s communications director, said in an e-mail. “It is such a good educational tool, and what an amazing experience for the kids.”