At the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, we are excited about using local foods and flavors to create healthy and delicious plates. Through our MyPlate, MyState initiative, we are working to connect American families with the foods grown in their communities – raising awareness that all healthy foods and flavors have a place on MyPlate. As part of that initiative it was my privilege to attend the 5th annual Kids’ “State Dinner” last month, when the winners of the 2016 Healthy Lunchtime Challenge, were honored for their MyPlate-inspired recipes. For the first time this year’s contest, in which young chefs ages 8-12 from across the country create healthy recipes and show off their food know-how, included an emphasis on local and regional foods through MyPlate, MyState.
It was thrilling to see such creative approaches to amplifying local and regional foods. The winners truly captured the agricultural, historical, and cultural significance of their communities through food. I had the pleasure of meeting many amazing young chefs in attendance, including 11-year-old Abhijith from Missouri, who incorporated local catfish into his recipe, and 12-year-old Grace from West Virginia, who picked the vegetables in her dish from a community garden.
The 56 finalists representing each state, five territories, and the District of Columbia were treated to a memorable visit at the White House with a three-course “State Dinner” hosted by First Lady Michelle Obama. The event had many notable details resembling a traditional state dinner, from the White House china used to the receiving line and wonderful musical entertainment. After meeting the kids and sampling some of the delicious winning dishes, I can say firsthand that these aspiring young chefs were both enthusiastic and incredibly talented.
During the meal guests were welcomed by the First Lady. Her enthusiasm was infectious. She challenged the kids to “pay it forward” by continuing to champion healthy eating in their communities. In keeping with the theme of homegrown foods, every winner took home a set of gardening tools and a vegetable seed kit.
I was thrilled to see kids eager to experiment in the kitchen and create a variety of recipes that work for their families. The dishes show an inspiring commitment to healthy cooking inspired by MyPlate; it is exciting to see many of these young cooks embrace their local foods and flavors. It was undoubtedly an unforgettable experience for the kids, and for me as well!
The 2016 Healthy Lunchtime Challenge Cookbook and winning recipes are now available online at What’s Cooking? USDA Mixing Bowl for you and your family to make at home! What’s Cooking offers a variety of healthy and budget-friendly recipes with user-friendly search features and nutrition information. Be sure to also check out the MyPlate, My State initiative as part of our MyPlate, MyWins campaign.
To learn more about healthy eating visit ChooseMyPlate.gov and follow MyPlate on Twitter and Facebook. We encourage you to sign up for email updates on such topics as What’s Cooking? USDA Mixing Bowl recipe of the month, updates on new features, current promotions, and much more!
And congratulations to all of the 2016 Healthy Lunchtime Challenge Winners!
- Alabama: Green Chicken Wrap and Fruit-tacular Salad, by Chef Lael, Age 11
- Alaska: Wrapped Alaska Denali Style and Spinach Smoothie, by Chef Denali, Age 9
- American Samoa: Breadfruit, Taro, and Garlic Chicken Trio, by Chef Amelie, Age 9
- Arizona: Scarlet's Southwest Barack-A-Bowl, by Chef Scarlet, Age 10
- Arkansas: Asian in Arkansas, by Chef Lily, Age 11
- California: Cannon's California Rolls, by Chef Cannon, Age 8
- Colorado: Hannah's Sweet and Savory Chicken and Peaches, by Chef Hannah, Age 10
- Connecticut: Springtime Lunchtime, by Chef Kalaya, Age 10
- Delaware: Caribbean Fiesta!, by Chef Jamal, Age 11
- Florida: Bountiful Florida Fish “BFF” Cakes, by Chef Olivia, Age 12
- Georgia: Spaghetti Squash and Turkey Bolognese, by Chef Jackson, Age 8
- Guam: Quinoa-Crusted Katsu Curry with Cauliflower Rice, by Chef Grayson, Age 8
- Hawaii: Poke Me Ke Aloha, by Chef Kaira Grace, Age 9
- Idaho: Super Stars and Stripes Salmon Patty, by Chef Jacob, Age 8
- Illinois: West Wing Chicken with Secret Service Noodles, by Chef Maggie, Age 11
- Indiana: Chicken Tikka Pita with Cucumber Raita, by Chef Shakthi, Age 8
- Iowa: American Gothic Calzones, by Chef Lola, Age 11
- Kansas: Lentil Tacos with Cilantro-Avocado Drizzle, by Chef Joey, Age 12
- Kentucky: One Bag Bluegrass Bake!, by Chef Will, Age 10
- Louisiana: Sweet Savory Dip-tastic Louisiana Power Lunch, by Chef Owen, Age 8
- Maine: Quinoa Chickpea Salmon Rolls with Salad, by Chef Scout, Age 8
- Maryland: Maryland Crab Lettuce Cups, by Chef Colby, Age 9
- Massachusetts: Fit to Run Boston Marathon Cod-Potato Cake, by Chef Abby, Age 10
- Michigan: Super Stuffed Squash, by Chef Ethan, Age 10
- Minnesota: Alexandra's Refreshing Watermelon Salad, by Chef Alexandra, Age 9
- Mississippi: Kickin’ Cauliflower Shrimp and Grits, by Chef Aniya, Age 10
- Missouri: Tropical Vacation with Catfish and Quinoa, by Chef Abhijith, Age 11
- Montana: Bison in a Field, by Chef Brooke, Age 8
- Nebraska: Tasty Veggie Tacos, by Chef Lauren, Age 10
- Nevada: Veggie-Packed Indian Lentils, by Chef Skylar, Age 8
- New Hampshire: Teeny Zucchini Triangular Panini, by Chef Jude, Age 8
- New Jersey: Gianna's Salmon Paradise, by Chef Gianna, Age 8
- New Mexico: Green Chili Cheese Roll and Lime Jicama Fries, by Chef McLean, Age 10
- New York: Chicken Cheeseball Kabobs on Veggie Spaghetti, by Chef Danielle, Age 10
- North Carolina: Korean Lentil Patties, by Chef Mena, Age 10
- North Dakota: Red Potato Boat with 3 Bean Bison Chili, by Chef Stella, Age 8
- Northern Mariana Islands: Chicken Kebab Lettuce Wraps, by Chef Fanai, Age 9
- Ohio: Chicken Sausage Cauliflower Crust Pizza, by Chef Wyatt, Age 9
- Oklahoma: Okie Pride Brown Rice with Chicken and Vegetables, by Chef Maya, Age 10
- Oregon: All Kale Caesar!, by Chef Hannah, Age 12
- Pennsylvania: Sunny's Omelette and Bo's Patriotic Parfait, by Chef Ava, Age 9
- Puerto Rico: Oat! My Tropical Pizza, by Chef Victor, Age 10
- Rhode Island: Peace in the Middle East Soup and Salad, by Chef Pablo, Age 10
- South Carolina: Carolina Shrimp Tacos with Pineapple Salsa, by Chef Kiana, Age 12
- South Dakota: Catch of the Day Fish Tacos, by Chef Josh, Age 11
- Tennessee: Awesome Baked Falafel with Mango Salsa, by Chef Leya, Age 9
- Texas: Tex-Mex Veg-Head Lasagna, by Chef Priya, Age 10
- U.S. Virgin Islands: Healthy Chicken, by Chef Orin, Age 12
- Utah: American Flag Ravioli in Creamy Garden Sauce, by Chef Daniela, Age 10
- Vermont: Go Local Lunch!, by Chef Miranda, Age 8
- Virginia: Victory at Yorktown, by Chef Kathryn, Age 10
- Washington: Salish Sea Kedgeree, by Chef Lukas, Age 10
- Washington, D.C.: D.I.Y. Sushi, by Chef Elena, Age 8
- West Virginia: Grace's Supermeal: Cool Couscous and Berry Healthy Dessert, by Chef Grace, Age 12
- Wisconsin: Wisconsin Cranberry Chickpea Salad, by Chef Raya, Age 8
- Wyoming: Chicken and Veggie Salad, by Chef Hannah, Age 11