African Sweet Potato Stew Recipe Earns Appleton Girl Trip to White House Luncheon with Michelle Obama

Healthy Lunchtime Challenge Nets Trip to “Kids’ State Dinner”

First Lady Michelle Obama, Epicurious, the Department of Education, and the Department of Agriculture recently announced the winners of the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge, a nationwide recipe challenge to promote healthy lunches as part of the First Lady’s Let’s Move! initiative.

Wisconsin’s winning recipe was submitted by Sarah Ganser, age 12 and a 7th grade student this fall at St. Francis Xavier Middle School in Appleton. She is the daughter of Dr. John and Jennifer Ganser. Dr. Ganser is a family physician at ThedaCare Physicians-North in Appleton and Jennifer is a registered nurse who works as a health coach at ThedaCare At Work.

Healthful choices are part of their family’s lifestyle, said Jennifer Ganser.  “John and I are always teaching about healthy eating and exercise at home. Kids do a great job with trying new things. My oldest was at a school retreat last year and one of the trivia questions was about quinoa. She was the only one who got it. That was a proud moment for John and me!”

Jennifer and Sarah Ganser will fly to Washington D.C. courtesy of Delta Air Lines on July 16 and attend the Kids’ State Dinner on July 18. First Lady Michelle Obama commented, “This event gives us the opportunity to showcase healthy creations from talented kid chefs from across our country, and I can’t wait to see—and taste—this year’s selections.” Winners representing all U.S. states, three territories, and the District of Columbia will attend the luncheon, followed by a visit to the White House Kitchen Garden.

Sarah Ganser truly enjoys cooking and often partners with her mom to discover new recipes. Then they try them together. “I love being creative and figuring out all of the things you can create with a bunch of different ingredients,” she said. Sarah’s mom found out about the recipe contest and encouraged Sarah to enter. “We had this (winning) recipe from a friend, but we made it more kid-friendly by taking out some of the hot spices. But you can add them if you like.”

The recipe competition, in its third year, invited a parent or guardian to work with his or her child ages 8-12 to create a lunchtime recipe that is healthy, affordable, original and delicious. Entries had to represent each of the food groups, either in one dish or as parts of a lunch meal, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy foods, with fruits and veggies making up roughly half the plate or recipe.

Sarah Ganser’s winning recipe for Amazing African Sweet Potato Stew was chosen from more than 1,500 entries. Her recipe will be part of a free downloadable and printable e-cookbook of the winning recipes, including nutritional analyses and photos, which will be available this month at the contest site,,,, and