Eating healthy paid off in a big way for Wisconsin’s Raya Al Hajjar. The eight-year-old submitted a recipe to the 2016 Healthy Lunchtime Challenge and Kids’ “State Dinner” that was so good, it earned her a dinner with First Lady Michelle Obama last month.
The Healthy Lunchtime Challenge promotes cooking and healthy eating by asking kids ages 8-12 to prepare original recipes that are healthy, affordable and tasty. The recipes are judged, and winners from all 50 states are invited to a “State Dinner” at the White House.
Raya presented a Wisconsin cranberry chickpea salad that features parsley and lemon to give it a little twist. She was inspired by her family’s Palestinian background and the fact that her mom and grandma cook with chickpeas a lot.
Now that she has the First Lady’s attention, how else does Raya plan to promote healthy eating? For one, she’d like to bring more attention to food choices in schools. “The milk, for instance, has so much sugar in it — it makes the kids have too much energy and it makes it hard to concentrate.”
“I can attest to that,” says Raya’s guardian, Marcia Mihdawi. “I’m a teacher, and after lunch you can really tell which students have had proper nutrition.”
Raya says the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge had a significant impact on her, and she offers this advice to any kids thinking about entering the contest next year, “…You have to be interested in healthy eating, you have to do it all the time and you have to want to help other people.”