No WH Tours, But School Kids Selected for Exceptional School Lunches Get WH Garden Privileges With First Lady

By Penny Starr | April 5, 2013 | 10:21 AM EDT

First lady Michelle Obama greets children who visited the White House on April 4, 2013 to help plant the vegetable and herb garden on the South Lawn. ( Starr)

( – Vacationing families who check the White House website will find that White House tours are shut down “until further notice” because of  “sequestration.”  However, about 30 children from elementary schools were treated to lunch inside the White House on Thursday and got to help First Lady Michelle Obama plant the vegetable and herb garden on the South Lawn.

“The schools from across the country who have come, you guys are here because you are doing such wonderful things to implement the new school nutrition standards at your school,” Mrs. Obama said. “So do you like your school lunches?”

“They are healthy and they are good?” Mrs. Obama said. “And you're eating your vegetables?

“And many of you have gardens of your own?” Mrs. Obama said. “Awesome.”

“This year, Mrs. Obama invited children from schools that have made exceptional improvements to school lunches through implementation of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, in addition to Harriet Tubman and Bancroft Elementary Schools in Washington, D.C., which have been active participants in the White House Kitchen Garden,” stated a press release announcing the event.

First lady Michelle Obama helps Emilio Vega, 11, plant wheat seeds in the garden on the South Lawn of the White House on April 4, 2013. ( Starr)

Schools were chosen in Florida, Tennessee, Vermont and Massachusetts.

Benjamin David Gullett Elementary School in Bradenton, Fla., was touted because it offers at least one salad entrée every day, has whole grain wraps and “other healthy recipes.”

Arthur D. Healey School in Somerville, Mass., has food education events like “corn shucking day.”

Mrs. Obama helped children plant wheat seeds and lettuce plants and spent time shaking hands and signing T-shirts on the South Lawn before returning to the White House.

The schools and families were responsible for arranging and paying for the trips to the White House, according to the school officials who spoke with

The White House confirmed that schools were invited but were responsible for the “logistics” of the trip.