This article originally appeared in the July 14, 2016 edition of the The Hagstrom Report.
First Lady Michelle Obama today hosted her fifth and final Kids’ “State Dinner,” serving lunch to 56 young chefs, ages 8 to 12, one each from the states and territories who submitted the winning recipes to the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge.
The first lady started the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge and the dinner as part of her Let’s Move! campaign against childhood obesity and to promote the healthier rules for school meals under the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act.
Obama was introduced by Samuel Davis, the 2015 Healthy Lunchtime winner from Shreveport, La., who said he learned “that eating healthy is like throwing a party for your belly.”
The boy noted that the Louisiana Agriculture Center had taught him how to create compost, how to create healthy recipes and how to tend his garden.
In her opening remarks, the first lady noted that the panel of judges, which included Debra Eschmeyer, executive director of Let’s Move and White House senior nutrition adviser, government officials and previous winners, had reviewed more than 1,200 recipes this year, and that over the life of the program more than 6,000 recipes have been submitted and more than 270 children and parents or guardians had come to the dinner.
“But this event, and our Let’s Move! initiative, isn’t just about eating well today,” Obama continued.
“This is about setting kids like all of you up for a lifetime of healthy choices. Because here’s what we know: Eating healthy foods can affect how well you do in school.”
“That’s right,” she said. “I can’t say this enough — the food that you put into your bodies can actually help you get better grades. And it can also affect your performance in sports and other activities too. You see, when you give your body the best possible fuel, you have more energy, you’re stronger, you think more quickly. You just feel better in general all throughout the day, every day.”
The White House also distributed an overview of Let’s Move! that said more than 80 million people now live in a town with a Let’s Move activity such as a new sidewalk, a summer meal program or an athletic league.
Other accomplishments, the White House said, are that:
- More than 30 million children in school meals programs have healthier food
- More than 10 million children attend schools that strive to get 60 minutes of physical activity a day
- 1.6 million kids are now attending day care centers where fruits and vegetables have replaced cookies and juice, and
- “Thousands of chain restaurants” have created healthier kids’ menus while food and beverage companies have “cut 6.4 trillion calories from their products.
During the program, the first lady quoted some of the young chefs, including Lauren Hinrichs, a 10-year old Nebraskan, who said, “It hit me that we can make foods that we already love into healthier but yummy foods.” Hinrich’s recipe was for “Tasty Veggie Tacos.”
The first lady also noted that a girl named Abigail Cornwell who represented Ohio at the dinner in 2014 realized that some children were not eating enough fruits and vegetables and organized a a program called Apples From Abby that has delivered 17,000 apples to local schools.
She also said the boy who represented Delaware in 2013, Braeden Mannering, packed up a bag of healthy snacks for a homeless man near his house, and since then has delivered 8,000 “healthy brown bags to folks in need” through a nonprofit group called 3B — Brae’s Brown Bag Foundation.
“You’ve already made it to the White House,” Obama said. “That’s pretty big, right?
“So just imagine where you could end up if you keep on working on this issue throughout school, and then go on to college — because that’s all the next step for everybody, right? College is a must, right? And then you carry on these habits for the rest of your lives. Imagine all the people you guys could help. Imagine all the lives you could change.”
The first lady said she was “sad that this is my last Kids’ ‘State Dinner,’ but it’s not the last of the work that we’re going to do on this issue, right? So when I’m old and gray, I want to see you guys looking after me, making sure I’m eating my vegetables, right? When you’re standing here in charge of stuff, I want you to remember, you got to take care of little old Mrs. Obama.”
In past years, President Barack Obama has stopped by the luncheon, but this year he sent a video greeting.
After dinner, performers from Disney World’s new “Jungle Book: Alive with Magic” show performed. The children were also offered tours of the White House kitchen garden, but warned they should take the tours only if they were prepared for the heat.
Each winner got to take home a White House gardening kit, which will soon be available to the public through the White House Historical Association. The kit consists of a cotton tote bag, gardening gloves and tools.