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Bingham Student Tells President Obama About Growing, Donating Produce to Food Bank

Aug 10, 2015 10:29AM ● By Bryan Scott

President Barack Obama listens to 4-H students talk about issues concerning healthy living

By Julie Slama

Bingham High junior Jake Jensen doesn’t typically take a phone call during his foods class, but when he saw the 4-H state director calling, he excused himself knowing it must have been about an upcoming national event.

“He said he got a call from the White House and they wanted to talk to me about the Utah 4-H donated meats program and about the healthy living program I’m doing,” the 17-year-old said. “It wasn’t the typical call I’d expect and I’m not sure anyone believed it when I said it was a call from the White House when I went back into class.”

Jake is a Utah student state ambassador for 4-H. 4-H is a global network of youth organizations whose mission is “empowering youth to reach their full potential, working and learning in partnership with caring adults.” In Utah, 4-H is administered by The Utah State University Extension.

Jake said that with President Barack Obama’s interest in poverty and hunger, the 4-H programs in Utah fit right in. Plus, he added, that First Lady Michelle Obama’s healthy eating platform tied into his own local program.

“Utah 4-Hers have raised cows and donated them from across the state to raise 900,000 pounds of meat for those who are hungry. My family’s own garden has produced and donated 1,000 pounds of vegetables that we give to the Utah Food Bank and I’ve developed a healthy living curriculum that promotes staying active, eating right and having healthy snacks,” Jake said.

Jake said he, and seven 4-H students from other states, met with Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack April 13 in the Oval Office and he outlined how his family plants a garden every year and thought with the extra food they produce, they could help out the Utah Food Bank. They have given them fresh, canned and dried corn, peppers, tomatoes, peas, carrots, potatoes, squash, pumpkins and raspberries. 

“I wasn’t nervous and I was prepped with anything President Obama may have wanted to know, but he already knew quite a bit. He just leaned back on his desk and asked us to share about the programs. He is easy to talk to and asked clarifying questions. He told me to ‘keep up the good work and continue to make a difference,’” Jake said.

Vilsack posted on the United States Department of Agriculture and White House blogs about the visit.

“Today, President Obama and I met with eight members of the national 4-H community in the Oval Office. Each one of them had an inspiring story about how they are opening up new doors for kids in their hometowns, and how this work is building stronger communities where they can learn, play and grow,” he wrote.

Jake and the other students were given boxes of red, white and blue peanut M&M’s with the Presidential Seal, a White House coin and the U.S. Constitution with Obama’s signature — and the first-hand opportunity to speak to the president about an issue important to him.

“Of all the many different opportunities to serve, child hunger and poverty is the one that I felt like I could have the most impact. This is where I felt like I could make a difference,” he said.

Through Jake’s 13 years in the Salt Lake County 4-H program, he has learned about public speaking, small animals, sewing, cooking, leadership, community service, music and other 4-H programs. His two older brothers, who both were state leaders, as well as his younger brother and parents and grandparents all are involved in 4-H.

As state ambassador, Jake has taught more than 160 low-income youth about healthy eating, mental health, substance abuse and physical fitness, as well as represented the state at national conferences and congresses and meeting with Utah’s leadership, including Sen. Orrin Hatch, Sen. Mike Lee, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, Rep. Mia Love, Rep. Rob Bishop and former Rep. Jim Matheson.

“After I came back from Washington, D.C., my classmates realized I wasn’t kidding when I said I was going to the White House,” he said. “I feel fortunate that I have done a lot and have the ability to do a lot more. What’s the point of learning all of this if I can’t help someone else?”