Squirrels relish White House kitchen garden as shutdown sidelines staff

Roberta Rampton
14 October 2013

By Roberta Rampton

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - In the famous White House kitchen garden, tomatoes are rotting on the vine. Herbs have gone to seed. And the sweet potatoes - a favorite of President Barack Obama - have become worm food.

It's another impact of the government shutdown, one that only the fox and the many squirrels that live on the White House grounds could love.

A foodie blog called Obamafoodarama that obsessively covers the White House "food ephemera" and the administration's food policy has posted photos of the normally immaculate garden looking more like what most gardeners' plots appear at this time of the year - overgrown.

"Due to the shutdown, garden maintenance has been reduced considerably and only being watered as needed," a White House official confirmed, speaking on background.

First Lady Michelle Obama started the garden on the White House south lawn in 2009, the first time vegetables had been grown there since Eleanor Roosevelt's "victory garden" during World War Two.

She uses the garden as a vehicle to talk about healthy eating and reducing childhood obesity. Some of the produce is used at the White House, while much is donated to a local soup kitchen.

The foodie blog, run by editor Eddie Gehman Kohan, said White House gardeners are allowed only to water the plots and cannot harvest the vegetables. White House staff who normally volunteer to pick the weeds are off on furlough, Gehman Kohan said.

"Pounds and pounds of ripe organic bounty have gone to waste," she wrote.

"Weeds are springing up everywhere, and the vegetables that have already fallen off the vines are now mouldering on the ground," she said.

She posted photos from cameras near the garden beds at http://obamafoodorama.blogspot.com, including one of a squirrel eating a cherry tomato.

Squirrels are like "kids in a candy store, gorging themselves" on tomatoes and peppers, Gehman Kohan said.

(Editing by Philip Barbara)

What to read next

Hilton HHonors™ Card

Get 75,000 Hilton HHonors™ Bonus Points! Terms Apply. Offer ends 5/4

Are You Nearing Retirement and Need Income?

Years of mortgage payments can now help you in retirement with a reverse mortgage. Find out how you can stop paying a mortgage and receive an income!

Get This Once-In-A-Lifetime Deal Before It's Gone!

Get 4 Disney Movies For $1 With Membership. See Details. Exclusive Titles, Merchandise, Offers & Discounts. Plus, Free Shipping On Your Initial Order!

New Model Now Open in Oak Creek!

Luxury homes in the only gated country club community in Prince George’s County. Golf course homesites just released! Priced from the low $500s.

Veterans Can Get Great Rates With A Refinance

You could save big by reducing your rate with a VA home refinance. Compare quotes and take advantage of your benefits!

Multiple Sclerosis Explained

EDSS is just a number. Learn how those afflicted with MS continue to find joy in their lives. Search for Multiple Sclerosis Drug Treatment here