Fresh vegetables and bright sunflowers adorned the White House’s East Room on Thursday as First Lady Michelle Obama hosted 56 junior chefs from across America at the fifth annual Kids’ “State Dinner.”
The luncheon celebrated the winners of the 2016 Healthy Lunchtime Challenge, which Obama began hosting in an effort to promote healthy eating and home cooking among young Americans. This year, contestants were challenged to include as many local ingredients in their dishes as possible.
“This event and our ‘Let’s Move!’ initiative aren’t just about eating well today,” Obama said. “This is about setting kids like all of you up for a lifetime of healthy choices.”
The contest encourages kids between the ages of 8 and 12 to join with a parent or guardian to create an original, affordable and tasty recipe that includes ingredients from each major food group. A winner was selected from each U.S. state and territory, as well as the District of Columbia.
Just being in the White House in general was a huge honor. The food looked so pretty and it just tasted as good as it looked.
Kiana White, Blythewood, South Carolina, contest winner
Since 2012, Obama and her team have reviewed more than 6,000 Healthy Lunchtime Challenge recipe submissions and has welcomed more than 270 winners and their guests to the White House.
South Carolina’s winner, Kiana White, whose ticket to the White House was her “Carolina Shrimp Tacos with Pineapple Salsa,” said she enjoyed every aspect of her time at the big event, from meeting the first lady to seeing the Obamas’ dogs.
“Just being in the White House in general was a huge honor,” said White, a middle school student from Blythewood, South Carolina. “The food looked so pretty and it just tasted as good as it looked.”
This year’s event featured many of the tenants of an official state dinner, from a receiving line to “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band. The event also included a production by performers in Walt Disney World’s show “The Jungle Book: Alive with Magic!,” an appearance by Food Network celebrity chef Rachael Ray, whom Obama called her “partner in crime,” and a few jokes from the first lady.
“When I’m old and gray, I want to see you guys looking after me, making sure I’m eating my vegetables, right?” she told the crowd. “When you’re standing here in charge of stuff, I want you to remember, you got to take care of little old Mrs. Obama.”
Don’t ever let anyone tell you that kids can’t make a difference.
First lady Michelle Obama
During the luncheon, Obama highlighted present and past winners who have used their love of healthy eating to better their communities.
In particular, she mentioned this year’s winner from New Hampshire, 8-year-old Jude VanderHooven, who helps harvest his grandparents’ garden and donates zucchini to a local food pantry.
Obama also spoke about Abby Cornwell, an Ohio girl who attended the 2014 Kids’ “State Dinner.” After realizing that some of her classmates weren’t eating enough fresh fruits and vegetables and others couldn’t afford breakfast at all, Cornwell founded her “Apples from Abby” program and has since delivered 17,000 apples to her fellow students.
“Don’t ever let anyone tell you that kids can’t make a difference,” Obama said Thursday. “In fact, when it comes to building a healthier country, we’re counting on all of you guys to lead the way.”
The first lady ended her remarks with a call to service for this year’s Challenge winners, asking that they each return to their communities as “ambassadors for healthy eating.”
“Imagine all the people you guys could help,” Obama said. “Imagine all the lives you could change. You guys can do that. As small as you think you are, you can change lives.”
John Tompkins: 202-383-6041