When you’re a kid with food allergies, you get used to feeling left out at big group celebrations. While the rest of the gang dives into pizza and M&M-studded cake, you nibble your allergy-free cupcake.
But for Braxton Young, a second-grader from Ellicott City, Maryland, food allergies (and a little cooking know-how) opened the door to the party of a lifetime – the 2015 Kids’ “State Dinner”, a lunchtime event at the White House hosted by First Lady Michelle Obama.
A budding chef who has multiple food allergies, Braxton, 8, submitted his own original recipe – Quinoa-Crusted Spinach Pie – to the First Lady’s 4th annual Healthy Lunchtime Challenge. He won the challenge for the state of Maryland, then received the invitation to the White House celebration.
On July 10, Braxton and 54 young chefs, selected from nearly 1,000 applicants, joined First Lady Michelle Obama for a lunch featuring several of their healthy recipes.
“I feel excited because I’ve never been to the White House before,” said Braxton shortly before the event. “I want to be an engineer and a president,” says the ambitious youngster.
Braxton learned how to cook from his mother, Kimberly Young, 41, founder of a cooking company called Healthy Little Cooks. “It helps me feel better to cook,” he explains. “I sleep better, and I don’t itch as much.”
Kimberly explains that Braxton had his first anaphylactic reaction at the age of 2. “In a car, in rush-hour traffic.” Since then the family – with six children, ages 4 to 15 – has taken care to keep Braxton safe.
“Braxton is 100 percent gluten-free,” says Kimberly, “and the rest of us are 85 percent. We’re all dairy- and nut-free, and we eat just like him.”
And when Braxton cooks, the eating is good. That award-winning spinach pie, for example? It’s healthy, full of nutrients and protein, but it’s also delicious,” says Kimberly. “All our kids really like it.”
Aside from the White House honor, Braxton was thrilled to get the chance “to show that kids with food allergies can eat healthy.”