Three days after school started, Myka Smith-Jackson of Lexington skipped a day to experience something most third-graders never get to do.
She met President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama; attended a Kids' State Dinner at the White House on Aug. 20; took her first plane ride; visited the Smithsonian Institution, where she "met" Julia Child; and was interviewed by the White House media.
Myka, 8, was one of 54 students who won the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge, sponsored by Epicurious and the first lady's Let's Move! initiative. The student at Breckinridge Elementary created a curry chicken wrap, and her recipe was chosen as the Kentucky winner.
Myka found out about the contest from her mother, Nakia Jackson, who saw it on a U.S. Department of Education blog, and asked her daughter if she wanted to enter. It took Myka a couple of weeks to decide what she wanted to make. The entry had to be an original lunchtime recipe that is healthy, affordable and tasty.
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"My aunt makes chicken burgers, and instead of a chicken burger, I decided to do a curry chicken salad because it's healthy and affordable for kids to have," said Myka, one of the youngest winners in the competition, open to youngsters ages 8 to 12.
The prize was a trip to Washington, D.C., and lunch with the first lady at the White House.
When all of the contest winners arrived in the nation's capital, they met at the Smithsonian and toured the newly updated Julia Child exhibit.
The next day, when the students were escorted into the East Room of the White House, they were announced in the manner of state dignitaries arriving at an official state dinner, and a press line, which included White House chef Sam Kass, conducted interviews, just like at an state dinner.
"When we got at the dinner," Myka said, "we got to take a picture with Ms. Michelle Obama, and there was a balloon person and a magic person.
"We got to see a person from iCarly named Nevel. And Big Time Rush. Ms. Michelle Obama said her daughters like Big Time Rush and she does, too, and that's why she chose Big Time Rush to come to the White House."
Seated at a table set with presidential china, the children and their parents were served six of the winning recipes: kale chips, quinoa-black bean and corn salad, yummy cabbage sloppy joes, baked zucchini fries, strawberryana smoothie and summer fruit garland.
"We had some good food there," Myka said.
After lunch, Kass led the group on a tour of the White House kitchen garden on the South Lawn, then it was time to head back home — and back to school to tell friends all about the whirlwind trip.
Myka will be in the limelight again next month. Michelle Coker, director of child nutrition for Fayette County Public Schools, said Myka's winning curry chicken wrap will be served at schools during National School Lunch Week, Oct. 15 to 19.
And Myka isn't the only winner. Lakyya Washington, a fifth-grader at Meadowthorpe Elementary, won the national Mission-Nutrition Super Sack "Get Cooking With Science" contest, and her art work will be featured and printed on Mello Smello Super Sacks promoting National School Lunch Week 2012, Coker said.
"In recognition of this national award, we will be serving a meal in the bag with her design one day this week as well," Coker said. "We are really proud of these two students for taking such an initiative to create and submit items for a healthy lifestyle."
Here is Myka's recipe. It calls for grilled chicken, but any cooked chicken will do. A downloadable cookbook with all the winning recipes is available at Epi.us/Rwcvln.
Perfect curry chicken wraps
2 grilled skinless boneless chicken breasts, cut in bite-size pieces
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 red apple, peeled and diced
1/4 cup raisins
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 teaspoon curry powder
Salt and pepper
2 (10-inch) whole-wheat tortillas
In large bowl, combine chicken, celery, apple, raisins, mayonnaise and curry powder. Stir to combine, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Divide mixture among tortillas, and wrap tightly around the filling from bottom to top, overlapping one end, burrito style. Cut wraps in half to serve. Makes 2 to 4 servings.