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First Lady meets students in Italy

Published 17/06/2015

US First Lady Michelle Obama leaves the UK, heading for Italy
US First Lady Michelle Obama leaves the UK, heading for Italy

Michelle Obama has taken her campaign for healthy eating overseas, but let it slip that she still has work to do at home.

The US first lady prepared a lentil, barley and rice salad with middle school students at the James Beard American Restaurant in Milan, on the second leg of a European tour that promotes some of her core initiatives, including eating well to fight obesity.

Mrs Obama emphasised to the 20 international students from the American School of Milan the importance of sitting down for a meal with the family as often as possible.

She said that the president always takes time for dinner with the family, and that taking time to talk about the day's events over dinner was one way to slow down and be conscious of eating.

"And you probably eat less because you are not just shovelling. ... We don't shovel. Well, the president shovels sometimes," the First Lady said to laughter.

Hundreds of people lined the streets of Milan to catch a glimpse of her motorcade as it travelled from the restaurant near the Duomo in the heart of the city to the Santa Maria delle Grazie church.

There, in keeping with the food theme, the First Lady and her entourage viewed Da Vinci's The Last Supper with Italy's premier, his wife and daughter.

Mrs Obama's teenage daughters Malia and Sasha and her mother, Marian Robinson, joined her for the cultural outing. They were greeted by Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi, his wife Agnes and nine-year-old daughter Ester.

Mrs Obama leaned over to give the Renzis' daughter a hug, and Malia Obama waved to her and said: "Nice to meet you."

Ester Renzi laughed off a stumble as they walked toward the church to see the fresco, as the Obama daughters reached out to help her.

Mrs Obama is leading a presidential delegation to the Expo 2015 world's fair that tackles issues surrounding food and nutrition, dovetailing with her focus on fighting childhood obesity through her five-year-old Let's Move program.

The First Lady said the delegation, which includes star chef Mario Batali, urban farmer Will Allen and seven-time NBA All-Star Alonzo Mourning, would be meeting with people from other countries at Expo to discuss ways to tackle issues of health and nutrition.

At the James Beard restaurant, Mrs Obama took a hands-on approach, slicing chicken and mixing vinaigrette for the mixed grain and pasta salad while chatting with a group of student helpers about their sports activities.

"I'm multi-tasking here," she said. "That is what you do when you cook."

Mrs Obama said they could help fight obesity by helping to cook at home and knowing where the food on the table came from. She also had what may have been unwelcome, if familiar, news: "You gotta eat your vegetables," she told them. "Yeah, sorry about that."

After sitting down to eat with the students, she signed each of their school aprons, which were specially made for the occasion.

Tomorrow, Mrs Obama will visit the Italian and US pavilions at Expo, meeting a group of Italian children and student ambassadors from the US.

Her overseas trip continues on Friday with a visit to US troops stationed in Vicenza, northern Italy.

Her final stop will be Venice, where she has more cultural outings, including a visit to the award-winning US Pavilion at the Venice Biennale contemporary art show.

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