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Michelle Obama’s garden secret

The presidential vegetable garden will save on grocery bills.

First lady Michelle Obama plants herbs in the White House Kitchen Garden with students from Washington's Bancroft Elementary School on April 9.

Charles Dharapak/AP

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So the Obama family is planting the first vegetable garden to grace the White House grounds in the past 60 years. Why? To placate the organic food lobby? To make the elegant first couple appear more down-to-earth? (Yes, that’s a bad pun, no need to tell us.)

Here’s a wild guess: They’re trying to cut down on their grocery bill. It’s a little-known fact of Washington life that US presidents have to buy the ingredients for their family meals.

“The president has always had to pay for his own food,” says Carl Sferrazza Anthony, historian of the National First Ladies’ Library.

President Bush had to buy the pretzel on which he choked while watching football at home in 2002. President Clinton was billed (bonus bad pun) for Big Macs he ordered in.

So President Obama will be buying all the cereal Sasha and Malia eat, among other things. In that context, cheap home-grown arugula might look pretty good.

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