Fourth Grader Represents Vermont At White House For The 'Healthy Lunchtime Challenge'
Miranda Gallagher of Fairfax is a rising fourth-grader at BFA-Fairfax who also happens to have written a recipe, had it published in a cookbook and was a guest of honor at the White House. She was chosen as the 2016 winner from Vermont for the "Healthy Lunchtime Challenge," which invited children ages 8 to 12 to create a recipe that's healthy and made with local ingredients.
"I made a Vermonter chicken salad wrap with maple-glazed veggies," Miranda explained to Vermont Edition. "And pretty much all the ingredients you can find in your garden or at a farmers' market."
The 56 winners – one from each U.S. state, five U.S. territories and Washington, D.C. – all were invited to visit the White House for a special Kids' "State Dinner" celebration on July 14. The event was actually a lunch which featured some of the winning recipes.
"We had a watermelon salad," Miranda says, describing her White House meal. "We had some chicken. We had a 'Teeny Zucchini Triangular Panini.'"
And you can't forget dessert.
"Dessert was great," Miranda says. "It was a fruit salad with a little orange peel bowl and a white chocolate butterfly and edible violets."
Part of the inspiration for Miranda's winning chicken salad wrap came from the fact her family has meat chickens – though she's quick to point out that she has no interest in butchering them. Miranda's recipe also features veggies and her family has a vegetable garden.
"I was inspired to cook by the contest," Miranda says. "And then, I pretty much cook it all the time now."
Miranda says while it's hard to choose a favorite part of the White House experience, she says a highlight was meeting First Lady Michelle Obama, who hosted the event.
"It feels really good to hug Ms. Obama," Miranda says, before sharing how she also complimented the First Lady on her fashion choices.
"The day before we had gone to the Smithsonian and after we had seen Julia Child's kitchen, we looked at the First Ladies' dresses," Miranda explains. "And I told her that I thought her dress was my very favorite."
One parent was able to attend with each winner, so Miranda's mom, Genevieve Gallagher, accompanied her daughter to the White House celebration. Genevieve also had the chance to speak with Michelle Obama at the event.
"Mrs. Obama was so generous and kind, and spoke to all the parents individually about how proud she was of their kids and how thankful she was about the job we were doing with them, and it was really special for that," she says.
While this will be the last Healthy Lunchtime Challenge during the Obama administration, Genevieve says it would be "amazing" if the next administration carries on the challenge.
"I think kids being able to share what they like and what they're interested in with other kids is the best way to get kids to eat healthy," Genevieve says.
She recalls a conversation she had with her daughter recently about how kids will sometimes throw out their lunches at school that meet the "MyPlate" standards and instead opt for things like chips.
"Part of it may just be because no one's ever really taught them about it," Genevieve says. "I think we're lacking nutrition education and home economics education, and [I] think those things would really help push it forward."
A printable cookbook has been made available online with all of this year's winning recipes, and Genevieve says her family plans to incorporate dishes from other winners into future meals.
"There are wonderful recipes in the cookbook and it really was interesting how everyone came up with their recipes, whether it was because of what was in season or what they could find or family traditions," Genevieve says. "There were some really interesting combinations, and we'll definitely be making quite a few of them."
Genevieve also says something that stood out to her was the way the children connected with one another during their trip.
"Right off the bat, I made friends with many people. One from Hawaii. One from Alaska. One from Virginia," Miranda says, adding that she plans to stay in touch with her new friends.
In addition to the memories and the new friendships, Miranda was allowed to take another memento home from the White House.
"I took a paper towel from the bathroom," Miranda says. "It has the presidential seal on it."
Correction 8/9/16 10:27 a.m. This piece has been updated with the number of U.S. territories that a winner was chosen from.
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