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First lady makes appearance at a new farmers market near the White House

WASHINGTON -- After planting and harvesting a vegetable garden on the White House lawn earlier this year, first lady Michelle Obama furthered her commitment to eating locally produced food Sept. 17 by appearing at the opening of a new farmers mar...

WASHINGTON -- After planting and harvesting a vegetable garden on the White House lawn earlier this year, first lady Michelle Obama furthered her commitment to eating locally produced food Sept. 17 by appearing at the opening of a new farmers market only a block from the White House.

"I have never seen so many people so excited about fruits and vegetables," Obama said to a crowd of about 250 wildly cheering onlookers and farmers' market customers standing in a drizzle.

She added that when she travels around the world, "No matter where I've gone so far, the first thing world leaders, prime ministers, kings, queens ask me about is the White House garden." Second, she said, they ask about Bo, the family dog.

Farmers markets grants

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack also appeared at the opening and announced that 86 groups around the country would get $4.5 million in federal grants to promote farmers markets, including buying equipment to make it possible for beneficiaries of the supplemental nutrition assistance program, formerly known as food stamps, to use their electronic benefit cards to shop at the markets.

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Among the recipients will be three groups in Minnesota -- the Onamia Community Education program, which was awarded $51,047, including $25,416 to enable use of electronic benefit transfer cards, the Minnesota Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, which got $100,000, and the Minnesota Food Association, which got $52,793.

Improving diets

Obama said that when she was a busy working mother "trying to put it all together," takeout food "was a primary part of our diet," but that she had learned that "when my family eats fresh food, healthy food, that it really affects how we feel, how we get through the day, and that's whether we're trying to get through math homework or whether there's a Cabinet meeting or whether we're just walking the dog."

For people "who are battling the time crunch" and for those who need "access to fresh food is an issue in our neighborhoods, farmers' markets are a really important, valuable resource that we have to support," she said.

The White House later told reporters that the first lady picked up some black kale, eggs, cherry tomatoes, mixed hot peppers, pears, fingerling potatoes, cheese and chocolate milk.

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