News

Squirrels relish White House garden as shutdown sidelines staff

Squirrels relish White House garden as shutdown sidelines staff

GARDEN GONE WILD: The White House garden is being overrun by squirrels during the shutdown. Photo: Reuters

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 II.

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 on her blog, 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.

Recent Headlines

in National

U.S., Cuba to restore diplomatic relations after 50 years

alangross

The major policy shift will end decades of hostile ties with the communist-ruled island.

in National

Menus will sport new calorie labels for alcohol

alcoholcalories

Restaurant drinkers will soon know how many calories are in their margarita or craft beer.

in National

113th Congress ends with more fights than feats

mcconnell

Congress has limped out of Washington, capping two years of legislating that was overshadowed by partisan clashes.

in National

Obamacare enrollment tops 2.5M

obamacare

Officials said demand for the health insurance plans jumped during the final week of 2015 open enrollment.

in National

Obama signs $1.1 trillion spending bill

obama

The legislation funds most government agencies through September 2015.