Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Let's Move! At The State Of The Union: Child Chef Aliana Arzola-Piñero Will Sit With First Lady

Mrs. Obama with Arzola-Piñero, in dots, at the 2013 Kids' State Dinner
Mrs. Obama's only child guest won the 'Healthy Lunchtime Challenge' recipe contest, and is an ambassador for the child obesity campaign...
Washington, DC - For the second year in a row, First Lady Michelle Obama has invited one of the pint-size chefs who won her Let's Move! "Healthy Lunchtime Challenge" recipe contest to sit with her during President Barack Obama's State of the Union Address.  2013 winner Aliana Arzola-Piñero, from San Juan, Puerto Rico, will join Mrs. Obama in her viewing box this evening at the US Capitol.   

The fourth grader is the youngest among Mrs. Obama's 23 State of the Union guests, who "represent the stories of millions of Americans across the country, who are working hard to better their communities, improve their own economic outcomes and help restore opportunity for all," the White House said.

Thanks to her winning recipe, "Yummy Eggplant Lasagna Rolls," Arzola-Piñero was honored by Mrs. Obama at last summer's Kids' State Dinner, along with 53 other chef-winners ages 8-12.  The heady event, which was actually a luncheon, featured a visit from President Obama and a tour of Mrs. Obama's Kitchen Garden led by the White House chefs.

In the months since, Arzola-Piñero has become an ambassador for the Let's Move! campaign, according to the White House.

"Aliana has worked hard to translate her experience visiting the White House into concrete steps to benefit her community, championing healthy eating and an active lifestyle for kids," the White House said.

Arzola-Piñero has cooked since age two, and is an "avid reader and gymnast," the White House said.  She is also very persistent:  She entered Mrs. Obama's contest the first year it was offered, in 2012.

"While she didn’t win, she worked hard, tried again, and her perseverance paid off as she proudly represented Puerto Rico at the 2013 Kid’s State Dinner hosted by the First Lady," the White House said.

Arzola-Piñero had stiff competition when she finally won: There were 1,300 entries in the contest co-sponsored by Epicurious.com, USDA, and the Department of Education.  All recipes had to follow the federal MyPlate nutrition guidelines. 

"Our Kids' State Dinner is one of my favorite events of the year," Mrs. Obama said as she saluted Arzola-Piñero and the other winners during the East Room event.

"The kid chefs who come from around the country never cease to impress and inspire me with their creativity and ingenuity."

The contest is part of the Let's Move! campaign's ongoing effort to encourage home cooking, which Executive Director Sam Kass says "is one of our greatest weapons" to combat child obesity.  Mrs. Obama will this year run another recipe contest and host another Kids' State Dinner to encourage more kids to get into the kitchen.

Last year, 2012 recipe contest winner Haile Thomas, age 12 at the time, was invited to sit with Mrs. Obama during the State of the Union Address.  She's also a Let's Move! activist.

Dr. Jill Biden and Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett will also join Mrs. Obama this evening when the President addresses the nation at 9:00 PM ET.

*Mrs. Obama's full guest list.

CLICK HERE to download the 2013 Healthy Lunchtime Challenge Cookbook  {PDF}, which includes Arzola-Piñero's recipe.

 *Photo by Lawrence Jackson/White House