At Food Bank, First Lady Packs Her Bags
By DeNeen L. Brown
On the 100th day of the Obama administration, first lady Michelle Obama -- along with Jill Biden and a bipartisan group of more than 150 congressional spouses -- visited the Capital Area Food Bank to assemble more than 2,000 bags of food for hungry children in the Washington area.
"One of the things that we can illustrate to the rest of the world is that it doesn't take a lot to do something major," Obama told a crowd of workers lined up near stacks of canned goods and boxes of trail mix.
"We're going to spend a couple of hours of our time packing up food, and it's going to feed a thousand children over the weekend here in Washington, D.C.," she said.
Obama, who has said part of her mission as first lady is to focus on community service, talked about the need for people to volunteer and help out any way they can in their communities.
Before leaving the stage to stuff bags with boxes of pasta, Obama said: "I've built a career on volunteerism and community service. It is something that I am passionate about, and I wanted to bring that to the work of the first lady, into the administration."
In the past months, Obama has served lunch to homeless men and women at Miriam's Kitchen, helped to build houses for the homeless and started a community garden at the White House. She has reached out to school children, telling them to dream big.
Community service has been a rallying call at each stop, as Obama has encouraged people to do what they can to help out people who are less fortunate in their communities.
"I'm not going to talk too long because you need to get to work," said Obama, who wore gray capris and sneakers with metallic cap toes.
Obama congratulated congressional spouses for the work they do and for coming to the food bank, where they walked around the warehouse with white plastic bags as other volunteers filled them with cans or boxes of food. Each bag contained enough food for five meals, or a weekend of food for a child who gets free lunch at school, but would be at risk of going hungry once school lets out.
The list of attendees included: Teresa Heinz, wife of Sen. John Kerry; Vicky Kennedy, wife of Sen. Edward Kennedy; Hadassah Lieberman, wife of Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman; and Lillian Miles Lewis, wife of civil rights legend Congressman John Lewis.
Obama's staff members said the program at the food bank was bipartisan and provided congressional spouses an opportunity to meet and talk with each other outside the confines of the traditional settings of congressional dinners and congressional lunches.
"I just think it's important for America to see you all here doing this and for us doing it together, not as Republicans or Democrats or independents," Obama said. "There is no ideology; these are just all of us people who care about our country and want to make service a core part of the work that we do. So I'm grateful to all of you for taking the extra time to come. Many of you have brought your children, and that's always a wonderful legacy to pass on."
Jill Biden, who handed out cans of pineapple chunks, said the "event is really a reflection of Michelle Obama and the administration and all of you. You know, this is not something new to Michelle, because when she was in Chicago, she worked with AmeriCorps and she worked with the University of Chicago to set up a volunteer program on a massive scale. And then when she became our first lady, she went to -- she worked with YouthBuild, and she went to Miriam's Kitchen, and she also started her own community garden at the White House."
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