Amanda MackinnonWhat does the US President eat?

Sam Kass is the White House Assistant Chef. At this years OFA Short Course in the USA, Sam was the keynote speaker and enthusiastically shared his dream job with the crowd. The position has thrown the 32-year old from Chicago into the spotlight and even earned him a place on People magazines ‘100 Most Beautiful People’ list. In the United States he seems to be a celebrity in his own right and certainly stands out with his shaved head and broad grin.

At the White House Kass rules the kitchen in his white jacket, planning menus and preparing meals. He also travels with the world’s most powerful couple to oversee their dietary requirements. Kass explained that the First Family “eat as a family” with a big emphasis on fresh fruit and vegetables. However it’s good to know that he embraces flexibility and allows for the occasional treat by “throwing in the fun stuff.” I wonder if he lectures the president on what desserts he can and cannot indulge in?

Kass is passionate about gardening and planting home-grown fruits and vegies and oversees the extensive kitchen garden at the White House. Sam frequently tends the garden himself and harvests fresh foods each day to present to the President and First Lady. The garden includes everything from bananas to strawberries, and corn to sweet potatoes. Often excess harvests are donated to food shelters.

Children from the Bancroft school help First Lady Michelle Obama & Chef Sam Kass plant the White House Vegetable Garden in 2009

The White House kitchen garden was the brainchild of the First Lady who envisioned it to be a learning tool for children. With the rising epidemic of childhood obesity and diabetes, this is a major problem. One in three US children are on track to be diabetics. That’s a scary thought. Youngsters are frequently invited to visit the garden to taste, touch and smell the fresh produce. Kass reports excellent results with changes in children’s eating patterns cited as a big win.

Mrs Obama is a big advocate for healthy eating habits too. She has been quoted as saying “If the President of the United States can sit down with his family for dinner, then hopefully more families can too.” It’s an important point to remember – to take the time to sit down with kids and model positive eating habits. If you don’t eat your broccoli, why should they!

Kass wears another hat as the Senior Policy Advisor for Healthy Food Initiatives. He speaks with passion about the message of healthy eating and is always at Mrs Obamas side when she is delivering healthy eating messages. Together they have devised a campaign called ‘First Lady’s Let’s Move!’ which is aimed to “tackle the problem of childhood obesity in this country.” Gardening is an integral part of the program. They are aiming not just to spread the word about where food comes from, but to actually show kids first hand.

Photo EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images

Kass explained that one of their proudest victories to date has been to get Walmart to lower the costs of its fruit and vegetables and reduce the salt, sugar and fat content in many of its labeled foods. “We’re seeing real changes” he says.

As for what the president of the USA has for dinner? It’s still top secret!

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Amanda Mackinnon

About Amanda Mackinnon

Amanda's career has taken her on a remarkable journey through science, education, international business and communication. Living in a busy male dominated household – chasing around 2 noisy boys, one friendly golden retriever, a cheeky ginger cat and her husband, it’s no wonder she finds solace in the quiet beauty of plants! Amanda writes regularly for a variety of publications and is passionate about all things happening on the little island at the edge of the world.

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