Food For Thought

After submitting a recipe to Epicurious.com’s “The Healthy Lunchtime Challenge and ‘Kids’ State Dinner'” contest, an Ashville native became a finalist.

First Lady Michelle Obama teamed up with Epicurious.com, the U.S. Department of Education and the Department of Agriculture to host a nationwide recipe challenge to promote healthy eating among America’s youth. Claire Apthorpe, 12, a seventh grader at Panama Central School, was selected as a finalist to represent New York in the competition. Entries came in from all 50 states, along with the District of Columbia, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

According to recipechallenge.epicurious.com, more than 1,300 recipes were evaluated in Washington, D.C., by a panel of judges that included: Sam Kass, “Let’s Move!” executive director and assistant White House chef; Tanya Steel, Epicurious.com editor-in-chief; representatives from the USDA and the Department of Education; two children who recently graduated from Share Our Strength’s Cooking Matters program; and Michael F. Curtin, Jr., of D.C. Central Kitchen whose organization prepared the food for tasting.

Claire’s recipe, “Spicy Salmon and Sugar Snap Peas,” was chosen as one of the top three entries from New York. Upon the announcement of Claire’s selection as a finalist in the competition, she received an email from the White House, which included comments from Tom Vilsack, USDA secretary and Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education.

“In order to promote a healthier next generation of Americans, we need to encourage kids to make healthier choices now – which they can carry into adulthood,” said Vilsack.

“We know healthy kids are healthy students, and healthy students are better able to engage in the classroom and excel academically,” said Duncan.

However, only one competitor from each state was selected to act as a representative during the second annual Kids’ State Dinner at the White House, which was held Tuesday. Another New York resident, Peter Murphy, 9, took first place with his “Super Rescue Soup” to earn himself a place with the 53 other winners at Tuesday’s dinner.

A CHEF AT HEART

According to Claire, although she wasn’t one of the 54 children flown to the nation’s capital to attend the “Kids’ State Dinner” at the White House, which was hosted by Obama, she is still happy to have earned second place in New York state.

“I found out about the competition and Epicurious.com from my second-grade teacher, Lisa Minton, who told me and my mom about the contest, which I tried for the first time last year,” said Claire. “Last year I submitted a recipe for a spaghetti squash dish with homemade marinara. Part of how I make my recipes is I look at what we have at the house or in the garden. This year’s ‘Spicy Salmon and Sugar Snap Peas’ recipe used peas that we grew.”

“The recipes have to be original – they cant be something you found in a cookbook – and they have to be healthy,” added Mrs. Apthorpe.

Claire is the daughter of Clint and Jennifer Apthorpe of Ashville. Clint is a teacher at Jamestown High School, and Jennifer is a teacher at Falconer. Claire has three siblings, Matthew, 11, Caroline, 7, and Andrew, 3. They live on a farm with their parents where they cultivate a garden full of vegetables and fruits as well as raise livestock.

“It’s fun because in our garden we have a little fort made of wire that we’re growing sunflowers around,” said Claire. “I think part of my interest in healthy eating comes from helping my parents with their garden – it grew on me.”

“When she was little, Claire would want to make something real so badly that she’d make these cakes out of layered bread and peanut butter and they’d be these huge creations,” added Mrs. Apthorpe. “She had an Amish babysitter, and I thought, ‘These Amish children are cooking, why not Claire then?’ So, because it was something she really liked, we were really into promoting and developing her interest in it.”

Claire has intentions of continuing to cook, and to someday study the culinary arts to open her own restaurant, she said. In the meantime, she plans on starting a blog, so that she can share some of her favorite recipes.

HEALTHY LIFESTYLE

The competition invited parents, guardians and their children to create and submit an original healthy, affordable and tasty lunch recipe. One of the goals of the competition and the state dinner is to support “Let’s Move!,” a program launched by Obama to solve the issue of childhood obesity. Each submitted recipe was required to adhere to the guidance that supports USDA’s MyPlate, ChooseMyPlate.gov, to ensure that the criteria of a healthy meal was met. Therefore, the entries were to represent each of the food groups, either in one dish or as parts of a lunch meal, including: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and low-fat dairy foods, with fruits and vegetables making up roughly half the plate or recipe.

At the conclusion of the Challenge, a free, downloadable and printable e-cookbook featuring the winning recipes, nutritional analysis, photos and drawings, became available at LetsMove.gov, USDA.gov, Ed.gov and recipechallenge.epicurious.com.

According to www.letsmove.gov, over the past three decades, the childhood obesity rate in America has tripled, and today, nearly one in three children are overweight or obese. If the problem isn’t solved, of all children born in 2000 or later will suffer from diabetes at some point in their lives, and many others will face chronic obesity-related health problems, such as: heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer and asthma.