A Winning Recipe Inspired by Michelle Obama

Posted by Jennifer Lee on June 17, 2012 0 Comments

Inspired by Michelle Obama’s garden book, American Grown, a group of elementary school kids create a community lunch that brings together garden fresh veggies, good friends, and a healthy meal even picky eaters will love.

Friendship Garden Soup Friends

One of the most effective ways to get kids eating (and enjoying) vegetables is to get them out in the garden: growing, picking, and preparing their own food. That’s old news for many, including my picky eaters. For months our food adventures have focused on finding new foods to try from our garden or the local farmers’ market. It’s been an effective strategy for getting my picky eaters to eat healthy and try new foods, and a great source of Crunch a Color™ bonus points at our family table.

A call to action from First Lady Michelle Obama brought a new twist to our weekly food challenge, and sparked an idea for my 8 year old.

As part of her mission to get kids eating healthy, Michelle Obama issued a healthy lunchtime challenge to kids across the country. The goal: design a kid-inspired, healthy lunch recipe. Like most kids, there’s nothing more fun for my daughter than spending an afternoon with friends, so she decided to turn Michelle Obama’s challenge into just that.

Friendship Garden Soup Chopping Cauliflower

The invitation to each child was simple: bring a favorite fresh vegetable from your garden and join us for an afternoon of cooking “Friendship Garden Soup.” In a garden get-together worthy of the classic tale, Stone Soup, my daughter’s friends gathered for an afternoon of chopping, dicing, sautéing, simmering and sipping a delicious soup together. For the recipe she created, check out Friendship Garden Soup.

“My idea for Friendship Garden Soup came from a book I read when I was little. The book is called Stone Soup and tells the story of villagers who bring food to make a soup with a stone in it. They learned to make something by sharing everything they had. So I thought that it would be nice to invite my friends to share vegetables from their own gardens. When you share it makes everything better” – Catherine, age 8


The best part of this activity was how a community of friends came together to create something special – and each person’s contribution (no matter the size) was important. One brought oregano from her garden, infusing a beautiful herbal flavor into the dish. Another found rainbow carrots at her local farmers’ market, adding playful color and crunch. My daughter added cauliflower, a new food favorite from our school garden.  My son added a “magic leaf” – a small bay leave that we ceremoniously add to all of our homemade soups to magically turn our ingredients into a tasty dish. Each child contributed something different to the soup to add to its unique flavor, in the same way that each friend brings something unique and special to my daughter’s life.

Friendship Garden Soup Friends 2

Who knows whether my daughter’s recipe will win Michelle Obama’s healthy lunchtime challenge. But in the end, the journey was worth every minute. Bringing friends together for a laughter-filled afternoon, enjoying fresh vegetables (familiar and new) grown from our gardens, and celebrating the joy of cooking and eating together. That’s a winning recipe in my family cookbook.

Friendship Garden Soup

Are your kids more likely to try new foods when they come from the garden?

Does a visit to a local farmers’ market result in the same positive changes in eating habits?

If you only have space for a small planter, which vegetables would you plant with your kids?

About the author: Jennifer Tyler Lee is a mom of two children and the creator of Crunch a Color™ -- the award-winning game that makes healthy eating fun. Like most parents, she struggled to get her kids to eat healthy, balanced meals, so she decided to make it into a healthy eating game and she’s giving back to support non-profit children’s nutrition programs including Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution and FoodCorps. Watch her picky eaters tell the story of how they turned into healthy eaters playing the game. Follow @crunchacolor on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest to tune into Crunch a Color's healthy eating adventure and Jennifer’s tips and kid-friendly, easy recipes. 

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