NILES, Mich. — Avery McNew wants to be a chef someday and, at 8 years old, has already had a recipe sampled at the White House.
Avery, a third-grader at Eagle Lake Elementary in Edwardsburg, was one of 54 kids to attend the first Kids State Dinner, hosted by first lady Michelle Obama.
The dinner was a joint effort between Obama, Epicurious.com, the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Through the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge, more than 1,200 children between the ages of 8 and 12 created and sent in original recipes that were affordable, delicious and followed nutrition guidelines.
A panel of judges selected winners from each state, three territories and Washington, D.C., who got to join Obama at the Kids State Dinner on Aug. 20.
Avery and her mother, Carrie Sponsky, created their recipe for Apple Oat Balls when they mixed together whole rolled oats, carrots, apples, some sugar and water to make treats to give to their neighbor’s horses that stay in a pasture outside Avery’s home.
It was when Avery’s sister, 2-year-old Arden, grabbed some of the mixture and tasted it that the family got the idea to make it for people, too.
Avery submitted her recipe and later received a letter from Michelle Obama saying that she had won a spot at the event.
At the White House, Avery was first introduced to members of the media in the White House press room before moving on to the East Room for the dinner. There, she got to meet the first lady.
“I also got to hug her,” Avery said, adding later that “Michelle Obama was really tall in high heels.”
Sponsky added the first lady was also “very nice and down to earth.”
Avery got to wear a new dress to the formal dinner, where butlers servedquinoa, black bean and corn salad, baked zucchini fries, a strawberry smoothie and kale chips, all recipes submitted by other winners.
During the luncheon, President Barack Obama made a surprise stop to speak to the group.
Sponsky said they hadn’t expected him to be there, or the formal White House photo they were able to take.
While in D.C., Avery and Sponsky also toured the Smithsonion Institution, including an exhibit on Julia Child, Mount Vernon and the Obamas’ White House garden with White House Chef Sam Kass.
Avery told Kass that she wants to be a chef. Sponsky said that Kass told her she could come back to the White House after she goes to culinary school.
“I love to cook all the time,” Avery said in an interview last week.
Avery left the trip with several pieces of memorabilia, including Michelle Obama’s autograph and honey from the White House’s beehive, lots of memories and some friends from across the country.
“It was a dream,” Avery said, “a once-in-a-lifetime dream.”
People can learn more about the contest and download the cookbook with all the winning recipes at www.letsmove.gov/kids-state-dinner.