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Opinion: Michelle Obama serves food to D.C. poor and homeless, but...

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First Lady Michelle Obama showed up Thursday as a surprise and welcome volunteer at Miriam’s Kitchen, a soup kitchen for homeless poor people not far from the White House.

She brought with her some food donated by White House staff.

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The first lady served up mushroom risotto and broccoli to a long line of homeless men and women during part of her lunch hour and in these photos poses for a picture by one homeless diner obviously excited to be in the first lady’s presence.

Obama said she hoped her service would cause other Americans to volunteer to help the less fortunate in their own communities.

And, of course, such images of need might also help build support for her husband’s economic and healthcare reform agenda, although a Miriam’s spokeswoman said their average “guest” has been homeless since about the time Barack Obama was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2004.

Miriam’s is a privately funded soup kitchen about seven blocks from the White House that has 1,200 volunteers and serves about 300, mainly men, each morning. Our colleague Mark Silva has more on the volunteer work in the Swamp here.

Both of these news photos were widely distributed across the country and even around the world.

It doesn’t detract from the first lady’s generous gesture or the real needs she seeks to highlight to ask two bothersome journalistic questions about these news photos:

If this unidentified meal recipient is too poor to buy his own food, how does he afford a cellphone?

And if he is homeless, where do they send the cellphone bills?

-- Andrew Malcolm

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