Fresh From the White House Garden?

14:54, 11 September 2009
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City officials say...

Is First Lady Michelle Obama working to bring her passion for fresh fruits and vegetables to the streets of the nation’s capital?, according to The New York Times.  Or at least to a stretch of Vermont Avenue near the White House?

It certainly sounds like it.

 City officials say that Sam Kass, a White House chef and a one-time personal culinary czar for the Obamas, showed up at a community meeting last week to support the efforts of a nonprofit group that is hoping to bring an open-air farmers’ market to a spot near the White House. The market would be open to the public every Thursday from Sept. 17 through Oct. 29.

The nonprofit group is Fresh Farm Markets, which already operates several farmers markets in Washington and Maryland. Last week, the group applied for a city permit to close Vermont Avenue Northwest between H and I Streets to traffic for its newest market near the Executive Mansion, according to John Lisle, a spokesman for the city’s transportation department. “Our understanding is that they are working with the White House,’’ he said.

White House officials declined to comment. Bernadine Prince, a co-director of Fresh Farm Markets, also wouldn’t say whether she was working with the White House on her newest project.

“We’re still in the process of getting the permit approved,’’ Ms. Prince said.

With her vegetable garden and her talks about the importance of tackling obesity, Mrs. Obama has emphasized the importance of making fresh fruits and vegetables accessible, particularly to people in poor, underserved communities.

Fresh Farm Markets shares similar goals. According to its Web site, the group strives to ensure “that local and fresh produce is available to all people, regardless of income and/or financial stability.’’

And last week, the group brought Mr. Kass to a local community meeting in the hope of winning support for the new farmers market. Mr. Kass worked as the Obamas’ personal chef in Chicago, and has been involved with Mrs. Obama in cultivating the official White House garden.

“Obviously the message was that the White House was in favor of this,’’ said Cynthia Cota, the executive director of the advisory neighborhood council that hosted the meeting.

Mr. Lisle said that some additional information is required before the request for the street closure can be approved. Fresh Farm Markets needs to get some additional local support from neighborhood officials for the venture; to cover the cost of the revenue from the parking meters that will be lost on the days the market is operating and to provide a better site map, among other things.

City officials would also need to reroute one of the city bus lines to accommodate the market, according to the permit application. The plans submitted to the city indicate that farmers would sell their goods beneath 12 tents that would be positioned along Vermont Avenue.

No word on whether the bountiful produce from the White House garden itself would be up for sale.

By By Rachel L. Swarns, The New York Times

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