Abby bounced into the room with a basket full of apples in hand. With the help of her mother, she taped a poster covered in pictures from her recent trip to the front of her presenter’s table and then placed a small sign that said “Abby’s Apples” next to her basket.
Abby, now a local Athens celebrity, recently returned from a trip to Washington, D.C., where she met the President and First Lady, toured the White House and enjoyed a meal prepared by the White House’s top chef. Why? Abby was one of the winners of the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge sponsored by Epicurious. Her Sunrise Tuscan Chicken recipe beat out all the other Ohio contestants.
Abby stood in front of 20 COMCorps members, some old and some new, to talk about her experience during their orientation, and to hopefully give them some insight into a 9-year-old’s brain.
The bright and cheerful 9-year-old looked out over the crowd, put a big smile on her face and told us about her amazing experience. She was extremely happy to have met the White House Executive Chef, and she even got to ask him some questions.
Abby created her dish by incorporating her Italian heritage. A lot of her dishes center on pasta and tomatoes because those are some of her favorite things to eat. The COMCorps group was really interested in why Abby liked to eat healthy foods – and how they could take that passion and instill it in other children. Abby’s answer was simple. Why does she like to eat healthy? Fresh vegetables and fruits just taste better, she said. She likes to cook and go with her mom to the Athens Farmers Market to pick out her ingredients. And that is where it all began.
Not only did Abby get to meet the President, tour the White House and enjoy a state dinner, she also left inspired to share her love of healthy eating. She heard about how some other kids who participated in the competition were giving back to their communities, so she came up with her own idea to start Abby’s Apples.
Knowing that food access in Athens County is an issue, Abby set out to change that. She noticed that a lot of kids at the elementary schools get free breakfast and lunch but that there aren’t many healthy options at the school lunches. That’s where she got the idea for her apples.
At her school, East Elementary, she is going to deliver a basket of apples to each teacher to sit on their desk. That way, if a child is hungry and needs an apple, they can grab one from the basket. East Elementary started out this year by having 200 of Abby’s apples spread throughout the classrooms, all ready for the first day of school. Abby hopes to expand this project to other elementary schools in the future.
After enduring a round of questions, Abby finally said goodbye to the COMCorps group – but not until she had become a tiny inspiration for us all. Here is a kid out there helping to feed her community and helping her community continue on the pathway to better health.
Learn more about the 2014 Healthy Lunchtime Challenge and Kids’ State Dinner and download the winning recipes cookbook.
COMCorps member serving with Community Food Initiatives