On July 9, the White House hosted a dinner for a group of very special guests, but they were neither heads of state nor world leaders. In fact, you've probably never heard their names. The attendees consisted of 54 children and their guardians who gathered with their host, First Lady Michelle Obama, at the second annual Kids "State Dinner" to promote one cause: healthy eating.
Those selected to attend the special dinner were the winners, ages 8-12, of The Healthy Lunchtime Challenge, a collaboration between The White House and Epicurious. The guidelines of the contest were to create "an original lunchtime recipe that is healthy, affordable and delicious, and follows the nutritional guidelines of MyPlate."
Over 1,300 children submitted their healthy recipes to be considered by the panel of judges that included the executive director of Let's Move!, assistant White House chef Sam Kass, and Epicurious editor-in-chief Tanya Steel. The menu served at the Kids State dinner was none other than a compilation of some of the winning dishes, whipped up professionally by the White House's team of chefs.
The dinner sends a clear message to children and adults across America. First of all, good nutrition is a crucial component of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. More importantly, however, healthy food must not necessarily be boring and tasteless. "Food that tastes good can be healthy too," President Obama declared. The selected recipes were exciting twists on your typical dishes and included Kansas resident Olivia Neely's "Mini Pizzas with Veggies & Cauliflower Crust," Missouri native Henry Oates' "Confetti Peanut-Ginger Party Pasta" and South Carolina's Corbin Jackson's "Bring It On Brussels Sprout Wrap."
The First Lady made it clear that healthy and delicious can be one in the same with these recipes. In fact, epicurious even published an online cookbook so that Americans can try the young chefs' nutritious recipes from their very own kitchens.
Although the phrase is often belittled, you are what you eat. Maintaining a nutritious diet and staying active are two crucial components of leading a healthy lifestyle. Most people are aware that both physical and mental health are dependent upon what goes into the body as fuel, yet many Americans still eat poorly.
In fact, just days ago Mexico surpassed the United States as the most obese country in the world. According to CBS, "about 70 percent of Mexican adults are overweight, a third of them very much so." In addition, the rate of obesity in children tripled in just ten years. The U.S. is not far behind. Michelle Obama has made it her mission to teach the value of a healthy diet to children — the future of the country.
Of course, people eat unhealthily for many reasons. Time and budget constraints, laziness, lack of information and simply the reality that junk food tastes good all contribute to our country's obesity problem that even considered epidemic. Moreover, obesity is not an issue to be minimized; obesity-related diseases include heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and even reproductive issues.
It is time for a change, and the most effective way to change unhealthy habits is through education. Michelle opened the evening with a speech for her guests. If you're able to eat more healthy foods, if you can get up and be active, and if you are surrounded by parents and teachers who promote a healthy life, there are no limits on what you can achieve, she told the children. Her most important message was that a healthy body equals a healthy mind, and she commended her guests for taking a proactive step in getting involved and creating their own healthy meals.
President Barack Obama, too, took the stage to commend the young chefs. He praised the guests' healthy habits and the example that they are serving to their peers. He also called on the parents in the audience to learn from the examples of their children and continue serving nutritious meals.
After the event, Michelle, @FLOTUS, tweeted "I'm so proud of all of the amazing young chefs at today's #KidsStateDinner! Loved your healthy recipes — keep up the great work. #NomNom –mo."
At the end of the night, the First Lady's young guests left the White House with full stomachs, inspired to continue promoting a healthy life style. Children are the voices of the future, and the Obama's Kids State Dinner sends a hopeful message that these young chefs will continue to teach the value of good nutrition and make the country a healthier place in years to come.