The Let’s Move! Healthy Lunchtime Challenge was fun and beautifully executed in the East Room of the White House on Tuesday, July 9th. This second annual event was so inspirational it will definitely get you and the kids dreaming up healthy recipes, and working together in the kitchen. I was invited to attend as a media guest to film and get coverage of this yummy White House Official State Dinner. The First Lady teamed up with Epicurious, The Department of Education and The Department of Agriculture to create this unique competition.
The day began early for the 54 winners children. As their names and winning recipe were officially announced, they walked slowly through the Booksellers entryway front of the media for pictures and a few quick questions. Each child had their own story behind their winning recipe. Rose from Menlo Park, California, shared “I came up with my recipe because my brother has food allergies.” Children were dressed in their summer best and smiling with enthusiasm and excitement as their proud parents escorted them next to the East Room of the White House.
While waiting for the First Lady, the children and their parents were able to visit and introduce themselves to one another and explore the exquisitely decorated East Room. Executive Director of the Let’s Move! initiative and White House Chef, Sam Kaas, was up close and personal chatting with the kids. Every attention to detail was given to create a fun dining experience for the kids. Each table was covered with a crisp green and white striped tablecloth and decorated with a fresh centerpiece of rainbow colored vegetables and flowers. I couldn’t take my eyes off the yellow summer squash, orange bell peppers, green broccoli and red radishes with red roses tucked in between. Each child sat down in a golden chair in front of their place setting set with official White House China, silverware, and accompanied by a colorful canning jar glass then topped with a straw for that kid friendly touch. A small acrylic box filled with recipe cards of the winning entries was at the tip of each place setting as a gift for each child to take home.
Wearing a beautiful, stylish, bright summer dress, First Lady Michelle Obama shared a true personal touch with the audience, thanking “all the parents who are here with us today, the parents, the grandparents and I know out there somewhere are teachers and educators who are also inspiring these young people; thank you for bringing your kids here today, thank you for loving them, for supporting them encouraging them.”
“The odds are you know pretty tough to get into one of these seats at this table so you should be very proud of yourself. And that’s why this is truly one of my favorite events that we here in the White House. I mean we do a lot of cool stuff here. We’ve got singers, stars, world leaders, but this probably throughout the entire White House is one of our favorite events because we get to see how talented, and creative, and brilliant all of you youngsters are. And we don’t just get to see it, we get to taste it!” The audience giggled and clapped as she read aloud some of the winning entries including, “Banana’s Black Bean Burritos, Pan Seared Mississippi Catfish on a bed of River Rice, Bring It On Brussels Sprout Wrap and Slam Dunk Veggie Burger.”
All morning we were hopeful, and then amazed when a surprise guest arrived, yes, President Barack Obama. The room was filled with clapping and astonishment. President Obama is truly comfortable around families and children. He smiled, joked, and congratulated the 54 winners seated before them and shared, “We could not be prouder! I will tell you a story when I was a kid: In my family, when they cooked vegetables they were boiled, soggy, nobody wanted to eat them. Now I like vegetables because they are prepared right.” Encouraging the children he added “you are going to send an example to kids across the country. You’re helping to create a strong, healthy nation. And I am proud of my wife for this initiative.” Before he left the East Room, President Obama went to each table, bent down to eye level and shook the hands of each one of the winners. What a day for the children and what a memory for the parents. It was moving to see tears in the eyes of one parent so overwhelmed and so appreciative.
The audience was then entertained by Rachel Crow, X Factor finalist, who rocked the East Room and even invited the kids up on stage to dance and sing. As the children left the East Room they could choose a favorite balloon animal to take with them. And the day would not have been complete without a tour of the White House vegetable gardens.
You can be sure we will be featuring some of these Let’s Move – 2013 Healthy Lunchtime Challenge award winning recipes on our upcoming series, and you can find all of them here:
I will keep you posted for next year’s and you can check here: facebook.com/heykidsletscook!