The 12-year-old has been selected to represent Georgia at the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge and Kids’ State Dinner hosted by First Lady Michelle Obama Aug. 20.
“I was very excited when I opened the [official notification] email … I couldn’t wait to tell all my friends,” Haley said.
She and 53 others — one for each state, three U.S. territories and the District of Columbia — submitted winning recipes for healthy lunches.
Haley’s stuffed zucchini boat, with a Caprese salad on the side, is what earned her a seat at the First Lady’s table.
The rising seventh grader cited her garden as one of the inspirations for creating her winning menu. Her mother, Tracy, is the other.
“I was so proud of Haley to use her own vegetables from her garden to create a very tasty healthy meal,” Matthews said.
The contest invited a parent or guardian to work with their young charge to create an original lunchtime recipe that is healthy, affordable and tasty. Haley acknowledged taking her cue in terms of eating and preparing meals with one’s well-being in mind from her mother.
“My mom has inspired me to cook healthy meals because we always eat at home,” Haley said. “My sister [Regan] and I would rather eat at home than out at a restaurant because my mom is such a good cook.”
Indeed, Matthews’ daughters routinely skip the drive-through and chain restaurants in favor of a home cooked meal, she noted.
“We kid about our saying: ‘Everything tastes better when it is cooked with love,“ Matthews said. “I like knowing what we are eating and being able to control the quality of the ingredients.”
The Healthy Lunchtime Challenge is the by-product of a collaboration involving Obama’s “Let’s Move!” initiative, Epicurious and the departments of Education and Agriculture.
In support of “Let’s Move!” — designed to curb childhood obesity — entrants were encouraged to reference the nutritional guidelines of the USDA website, ChooseMyPlate.gov, to ensure recipes met the criterion of being healthier. Each entry had to represent each of the food groups.
“What was especially wonderful were the heartfelt stories about why it was important to eat healthy,” said Epicurious editor-in-chief Tanya Steel in a statement. “These kids understand that you are what you eat and that they need to strengthen their bodies and their minds with the most wholesome food possible.”