Sunday, July 14, 2013

Boise 2nd grader's healthy lunch recipe wins award

Boise second-grader Mac Wirth and his mom were trying to "think outside the sandwich" when they were cooking up a recipe to enter in a national contest.

Their efforts were rewarded when Mac's delicious "Veggie Barley Salad with Orange Honey Vinaigrette" was picked as the Idaho winner in the "Healthy Lunchtime Challenge," a competition promoted by First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! Initiative, epicurious and the U.S. departments of agriculture and education.

Fifty-four winners joined the First Lady on July 9 for a Kids' "State Dinner" featuring a healthy lunch of winning recipes followed by a visit to the White House kitchen garden.

For the second year, The Healthy Lunchtime Challenge invited a parent or guardian to work with their child age 8-12 to create a lunchtime recipe that is healthy, affordable, original and delicious.  In support of Let's Move!, each recipe adhered to the guidance that supports USDA's MyPlate (ChooseMyPlate.gov) to ensure that the criteria of a healthy meal were met.

 Entries had 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 veggies making up roughly half the plate or recipe. More than 1,300 entries were submitted to the competition. The full list of winners and recipes can be found online at recipechallenge.epicurious.com.

Mac and his mom, Kellie Wirth, an employee wellness consultant, created the recipe together with ingredients found regularly in their kitchen.

"My mom and I make this to have something ready fast when we have busy mornings," says Mac. "We change it up all the time depending on what vegetables we have. We use rice or pasta, too, if it's left over. Sometimes we add basil, pesto, and cheese. We could also add some beans or cut-up chicken. We make a bigger recipe and have some for dinner and pack the rest in our lunches. To fill up my lunch box, I like to add an apple, grapes, or a banana."

A student at Collister Elementary School, Mac is inspired by the competitive triathletes he meets through his active mom and dad, Adam Wirth, an accountant. According to Kellie, Mac and his 5-year-old sister Lucy "think it's cool to eat healthy."

Kellie highly recommends the resources available through choosemyplate.gov.  "I love the ChoosemyPlate.gov website because it gives a simple message to eat more fruits and vegetables. If you choose a food that you want to try the website will show you serving sizes and provide recipes," she says.

Let's Move Boise, a local organization affiliated with the First Lady's nationwide campaign to combat childhood obesity, will help promote the competition by distributing Mac's award-winning recipe to other elementary-age kids in Boise.  The recipe will be reprinted in the Boise Parks & Recreation fall Activity Guide, handed out at wellness fairs and posted on Facebook and websites.

"This year, we received very sophisticated recipe entries from all over the country that featured healthy ingredients like salmon, Greek yogurt, and ground turkey, which made it a delicious challenge to select the finalists," said Tanya Steel of Epicurious magazine.  "Each recipe also included anecdotes explaining the importance of healthy eating.  The insight from the kids who entered the challenge demonstrates that today's youth understands the need to strengthen their bodies and minds with the most wholesome ingredients available.  We are, once again, incredibly thankful to Mrs. Obama for joining Epicurious to continue to raise awareness for the importance of healthy eating for future generations."

"Healthy eating can help spur academic success," said Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education.  "And it's exciting that our young people have harnessed their creativity to come up with fresh, new recipes that are nutritious and healthy. This competition is just another example of how kids can rise to any occasion-whether inside or outside the classroom-when challenged."

For more information about Let's Move Boise, please contact Amy Stahl via email at astahl@cityofboise.org or (208) 608-7611.