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Family Matters Blog: Military-connected Girl’s Recipe Lands on White House Plates

By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 21, 2012 – Finwe Wiendenhoeft is a military-connected kid living the kind of healthy lifestyle First Lady Michelle Obama encourages through her “Let’s Move” campaign – and one endorsed by the Defense Department.

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Finwe Wiendenhoeft, 9, cooks barbeque cheddar chickpea burgers in her southwest Wisconsin home. The recipe she developed with her mother won them seats at the first White House Kids' State Dinner, Aug. 20, 2012. Courtesy photo
  

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Healthy is a way of life for Finwe, 9, who lives with her family on 30 acres in southwest Wisconsin, according to her mother, Kristina, and it was their recipe for a meatless burger that earned the two seats at the first-ever “Kids’ State Dinner” at the White House yesterday.

Finwe, the only girl and middle child in her family of seven, has always been interested in cooking, her mother said, so she helped her daughter create a recipe to enter in Let’s Move’s Healthy Lunchtime Challenge earlier this summer. Their recipe for barbeque cheddar chickpea burgers was such a hit, Finwe earned a spot among 54 children, ages 8-12, to represent her home state at the White House for the midday meal.

The fourth-grader was on a roadtrip with her parents to visit her brother, Jacob, at the Navy’s Nuclear Power Training Command, Charleston, S.C., a few days ago when I spoke with her about her win and subsequent two-day Washington, D.C., visit that included a tour of the White House Kitchen Garden and the Julia Child exhibit at the Smithsonian’s American History museum.

“It will be exciting,” Finwe said in anticipation. “I hope I can also see Mr. Obama and Malia and Sasha, too.”

Although they didn’t get to meet the first daughters, Finwe and her mom were seated at the first lady’s table for the East Room event, which included the full pomp and circumstance of an official state dinner and a visit from the president, according to pooled reports. The guests dined on foods created from their own recipes, which were compiled into a digital recipe book.

The winning recipes were chosen among some 2,100 entries, Mrs. Obama said at the event, which was cosponsored by Epicurious. “You came up with dishes that were packed with nutritious, delicious ingredients; dishes that are good for you, but more importantly, they taste good, too.”

Kristina said the experience has motivated her daughter even more to come up with healthy recipes. “Since this happened, she constantly coming up with ideas,” she said.

Kristina, a stay-at-home mom, said she learned about the contest online and was excited because it is in line with the lifestyle she and her husband, a U.S. Forest Service employee, have engrained in their children.

“We had that kind of campaign going on in our family anyway, so we were interested,” she said. “I think it great that [the first lady] is doing this. It’s been a big focus for us. We’ve kind of built our life around it.”

The Wiedenhoefts do not have TVs – although they watch occasional movies on a DVD player – and Finwe lists her favorite activities, besides playing outside, as baking breads and cookies, drawing, and reading, especially the Harry Potter series.

The Wiedenhoefts saw their lifestyle efforts pay off when their oldest, 19-year-old Jacob, enlisted in the Navy last year and sailed through basic training. “He never had any trouble with his weight, unlike a lot of his shipmates,” said Kristina, whose father and grandfather also served in the Navy. “He didn’t struggle with running or anything.”

That places Petty Officer 3rd Class Wiedenhoeft among a minority of his peers: Defense Department statistics show that only about one-fourth of Americans between the ages of 17 and 22 meet the requirements for recruitment, mostly due to obesity problems. That has sparked DOD officials to create a healthy lifestyles campaign of their own to improve recruitment and retention. Read more here.

Let’s Move “is all about all of us coming together to make sure that all of you kids and kids like you across the country have everything you need to learn and grow and lead happy, healthy lives,” Mrs. Obama said.

“It's about parents making choices for their kids -- choices that work with their families’ schedules, budgets and tastes, because there is no one-size-fits-all here,” she added.

The Wiedenhoefts have done just that, reflecting the healthy lifestyles the White House and DOD campaigns evoke.

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageFirst Lady Michelle Obama applauds with her young guests at the first White House Kids' State Dinner, Aug. 20, 2012. The children, representing each state and territory, were the invited winners of the Let's Move Healthy Lunch Challenge. White House photo  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageFinwe Wiendenhoeft, 9, hugs her brother, Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Jacob Wiendenhoeft, during an Aug. 18, 2012 visit shortly before she and her mother attended the first White House Kids' State Dinner. Finwe won a seat at the dinner for her recipe for barbeque cheddar chickpea burgers. Courtesy photo  
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