Michelle Obama Celebrates Major Milestone with Over a Million Meals Given to Families in Need

“It was a lifesaver,” said one recipient of the meal kits distributed in five U.S. cities through the Pass the Love campaign

Michelle Obama
Photo: Courtesy EllenTube

Michelle Obama is celebrating a good deed and great food.

The former first lady, an honorary chair of Partnership for a Healthier America, had a hand in making sure more than 20,000 families in five major U.S. cities had delicious and healthy food to eat over the past year.

Through the Pass the Love campaign, 1,008,000 meals were distributed to households in Cleveland, Atlanta, Detroit, Philadelphia, and Fresno.

"We have so much work to do to create food equity in our country and ensure that all people have access to healthy, nutritious food," Obama, 58, tells PEOPLE in a statement. "Our Pass the Love campaign with the Partnership for a Healthier America is getting us get one step closer to that."

Pass the Love meal kits
Alex Lewis

Starting in the spring of 2021, families in cities where child poverty levels are high received a meal kit every week for four weeks. Each kit contained enough fresh fruit and vegetables, ingredients and recipes for four people to enjoy three produce-forward meals.

The initiative surpassed its goal of distributing a million meals by 8,000.

"The campaign's success in giving out over one million meals to families in need shows us just how powerful it is when communities come together and look out for those in need of a hand," Obama, who announced the milestone on The Ellen Show, said in her statement. "I'm excited to see the progress we'll make in the years ahead."

The recipes — available here! — were inspired by the Netflix series Waffles + Mochi, which Obama described as a "kids' adventure food show" on Ellen.

"It's been hard for me to get fresh vegetables, especially this last year. Taking care of [my grandson] and with my job, it's hard to make it to the store," a Philadelphia meal kit recipient named Denise said. "Even when I do, most of it's too expensive and sometimes, I'm afraid he won't eat it and it will just go bad. I don't like to waste food."

Pass the Love meal kits
Pass the Love

"We've gotten so much help this last year, with things like the meal boxes, and they've really helped us get through," Denise continued. "I'm a positive person, so I know we'll make it — it's already getting better."

Fresh and tasty food certainly helps. "We loved the cucumber and the tomatoes and the sweet potatoes. All the fresh things that we don't have around all that much," she said. "I learned a lot of new tricks from cooking the meals, too."

Pass the Love meal kits
JPG Photo & Video

A favorite, Denise revealed, is the "delicious" broccoli soup.

"It was easy and tasted so good. All the meals had enough to eat for lunch or a snack the next day. It was a lifesaver because I'm so busy that I don't usually have enough time to fix a lunch," she said. "My friend that works with me kept asking what I was eating because it smelled so good. I told her to go get a meal box, too."

Obama's efforts to help Americans get and stay fit aren't new. After planting a garden on the South Lawn of the White House in spring 2009 to encourage a discussion of healthy eating, Obama launched her Let's Move! campaign to combat childhood obesity.

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