Kids: Time to Get Cooking!

Kids – it’s time to get cookin’! Entries are now being accepted for the third annual Healthy Lunchtime Challenge & Kids’ State Dinner.

This nationwide recipe challenge aims to promote healthy eating among America’s youth. Children and their parents are encouraged to create original lunchtime recipes that are healthy, affordable and — above all else — delicious.

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Fifty-six children (one from each state, DC, Puerto Rico and the U.S. territories) and their parent or guardian will be flown to Washington D.C., and have the opportunity  to attend a Kids’ “State Dinner” at the White House, hosted by First Lady Michelle Obama. A selection of the winning healthy recipes will be served.

Let’s Move! has teamed up with Epicurious, the Department of Education and USDA to sponsor this gastronomic challenge and encourage healthy eating habits.

The rules are simple: the recipe must be healthy, delicious, original, affordable, and meaningful. Details and past examples are available here. All entrants are encouraged to reference the MyPlate nutritional guidelines to ensure recipes meet the primary criterion of being healthier.

Recipe submissions will be accepted through April 5th … so head on into the kitchen soon!

Learn more:

Dorothy Amatucci is a new media analyst in the Office of Communications and Outreach

Looking Back at this Summer’s Let’s Read! Let’s Move!

Across the country, students and teachers are cracking open their books and sharpening their new number twos for the start of an exciting new school year. And while the unofficial end of summer has passed, it doesn’t mean we can’t look back on all the fun we had with our friends and family.

Let's Read Let's Move Event

The Let’s Read! Let’s Move! summer series concluded at the National Building Museum and included appearances by Drew and Jonathan Scott, hosts of HGTV’s hit show “Property Brothers.”

Here at the Department of Education, we’re taking a look back at our five Let’s Read! Let’s Move! summer series events and all the fun we had keeping our minds and bodies active.

The events are part of the Corporation for National and Community Service’s summer enrichment series which engages children in summer reading and physical activity over the summer months, and promotes healthy eating habits.

You can read about each of the five events at the links below and watch our video summary of all five events.

Week One: Olympic figure skater and member of the President’s Council on Fitness Michelle Kwan, joined Secretary Duncan, Sam Kass, White House chef and Let’s Move! executive director, and Congressman John Kline (R-MN) chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.

Week Two: Secretary Duncan joined Tony award-winning actress and singer Phylicia Rashad–best known for her role as Claire Huxtable on The Cosby Show–and World Team Tennis Washington Kastles tennis coach, Murphy Jensen. Following the reading, members of Washington Kastles—Martina Hingis, Bobby Reynolds, Leander Paes and Anastasia Rodionova— and staff taught kids to play tennis on four outdoor kids’ tennis courts on the U.S. Department of Education building plaza.

Week Three: Miss America 2013 Mallory Hagan joined Secretary Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) and two-time space shuttle astronaut, George Zamka. Before the reading session, Miss America lead children in exercises to Train Like An Astronaut with Shelley Canright, senior advisor to the NASA Associate Administrator for Education. After the training exercises, students went on a “mission to space” as they learned a dance that highlights the planets in our solar system and later participated in space-themed, physical activities.

Week Four: Secretary Duncan joined Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell, the NBA’s Jeremy Lin, former NFL player Brian Mitchell, Actor Hill Harper and DC Police Chief Cathy Lanier. Before the reading session, Mitchell, former Washington Redskins running back and Fuel Up to Play 60 representative, kicked off the event by leading children in an activity focused on healthy eating and exercise.

Following the reading, Harper, Mitchell, Lanier and the YMCA of Metropolitan Washington, led students in a unique Let’s Move! session, including a Petite Police Academy Physical Agility Test, during which students raced through an obstacle course to identify suspects.

Week Five: Secretary Duncan joined Drew and Jonathan Scott, hosts of HGTV’s hit show “Property Brothers,” at the National Building Museum to close out the series.


Click here for an alternate version of the video with an accessible player.

The Stars Come Out for Let’s Read! Let’s Move!

Let's Read event at ED HeadquartersThe fourth installment of the Let’s Read! Let’s Move! summer series at the U.S. Department of Education brought out the stars last week as Secretary Arne Duncan joined Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell, the NBA’s Jeremy Lin, former NFL player Brian Mitchell, Actor Hill Harper and DC Police Chief Cathy Lanier. Our special guests spent the afternoon reading and participating in fun physical activities with young learners from the local DC area. Watch our video highlights of the event:


Click here for an alternate version of the video with an accessible player.

You can also check out this an article about last week’s event from The Washington Post.

The last installment of this summer’s Let’s Read! Let’s Move! series will take place tomorrow, August 6, and will include Drew and Jonathan Scott. The events are part of the Corporation for National and Community Service’s Let’s Read! Let’s Move! summer enrichment series, which engages children in summer reading and physical activity over the summer months, and promotes healthy eating habits.

Adam Sperry is a student at New York University and a current intern in the Office of Communication & Outreach at the U.S. Department of Education.

Shooting for the Stars: Let’s Read! Let’s Move!

LRLMnasa1The third installment of the Let’s Read! Let’s Move! summer series at the Department of Education took kids’ imaginations all the way to the moon and back this week with space-themed activities and a strong focus on STEM. The event was part of the Corporation for National and Community Service’s Let’s Read! Let’s Move! summer enrichment series, which engages children in summer reading and physical activity over the summer months, and promotes healthy eating habits.

Thanks to NASA, educators from the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, and Miss America 2013 Mallory Hagan, the children received a special opportunity to “Train like an Astronaut” through core strength exercises, and learned about the solar system through an interactive “mission to space” dance.

Hagan, along with Secretary Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) and two-time space shuttle astronaut, George Zamka,  joined forces to read Pluto’s Secret: An Icy World’s Tale of Discovery to a room of eager young learners. Zamka told the children that Neil Armstrong’s “one small step for man” was only achieved through a series of preceding little steps, like working extra hard on homework.

LRLMnasa2The Let’s Move! portion of the afternoon, carried out with the help of the YMCA of Metropolitan Washington, included a “Shooting Stars Jumbo Jam,” “Comet Blast Relay,” and food tasting station with healthy star fruit. At the end of the active afternoon, children were encouraged to keep their minds active as well, by taking home a new book and book bag, courtesy of Target.

The last two installments of this summer’s Let’s Read! Let’s Move! series will take place on August 1 and 6. Each event supports First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move initiative, dedicated to promoting healthy eating and an active lifestyle, while also encouraging strong early learning programs to ensure children get started on the right track.

For highlights of this week’s event, watch our video wrap up here!

Sandra Ramos is a student at Cornell University and a current intern in the Office of Communication & Outreach at the U.S. Department of Education.

Let’s Read! Let’s Move! Summer Series Continues

Secretary Duncan and Let's Read Let's Move guest

Secretary Duncan joined by Tony award-winning actress and singer Phylicia Rashad and Washington Kastles tennis coach, Murphy Jensen.

Children from D.C. area schools took to the court today as part of the second installment of the Let’s Read! Let’s Move! Initiative, a partnership between the Department of Education and the Corporation for National and Community Service which engages children in summer reading and physical activity, as well as provides information about healthy lifestyles.

Today, Secretary Duncan was joined by Tony award-winning actress and singer Phylicia Rashad–best known for her role as Claire Huxtable on The Cosby Show–and Washington Kastles tennis coach, Murphy Jensen to help promote active minds and bodies through an afternoon of reading, fresh food, and games.

The event kicked off with a performance from Kofi Dennis of the Wolf Trap Institute for Early Learning through the Arts, who led the kids in exciting song and dance using drums, rhythm and rhyme. Afterwards, Secretary Duncan, Rashad, and the Washington Kastles read the children Giles Andreae’s book Giraffe’s Can’t Dance, and answered questions, talking about what it takes to be a professional tennis player and actually demonstrating exactly how giraffes would dance in real life, leading to some good laughs!

Through a variety of activity stations, such as “Shopping Cart Nutrition Race” and the Fruit and Veggies station, the children were able to sample fresh produce from local farmers and experience first hand how healthy lifestyles can be both fun and delicious!

The next installments of the Let’s Read! Let’s Move! series will be on July 24, August 1 and 6. Each event supports First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative, which promotes healthy eating and an active lifestyle, while also encouraging strong early learning programs to ensure bright futures for children.

For highlights of this week’s event, watch our video wrap up here!

Adam Sperry is a student at New York University and a current intern in the Office of Communication & Outreach at the U.S. Department of Education.

Kicking Off the 2013 Let’s Read! Let’s Move! Summer Series

Let's Read Let's Move

Secretary Arne Duncan joined Michelle Kwan, member of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition and Olympic figure skater, Sam Kass, executive director of Let’s Move! and senior policy advisor on nutrition, and Rep. John Kline, chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, for the kickoff of this year’s Let’s Read! Let’s Move! series.

“To make your dreams come true, it takes hard work,” Michelle Kwan said to a room of young learners at the kick-off of this year’s Let’s Read! Let’s Move! summer enrichment series at the U.S. Department of Education. The Olympic figure skater and member of the President’s Council on Fitness reminded them that it’s important to “practice, practice, practice.”

Kwan, along with Secretary Duncan, Sam Kass, White House chef and Let’s Move! executive director, and Congressman John Kline (R-MN) chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, came together as part of the Corporation for National and Community Service’s United We Serve: Let’s Read! Let’s Move! initiative, which engages youth in summer reading and physical activity, as well as provides information about healthy, affordable food.

More than 175 preschool and elementary school children from the DC area participated in an afternoon filled with an interactive cooking lesson from teacher, chef and advocate for children’s nutrition Kathy Powers, story time with Picky Peggy and Can I Play Too?, and activities like “Shopping Cart Nutrition Race” and “Make a Salad Relay,” with the help of the YMCA of Metropolitan Washington.

Children were encouraged to continue reading this summer with a new book and book bag compliments of Target. At the end of the afternoon, each child left with full bellies, bright smiles, and inspiration to continue to work hard to reach their dreams.

The next installments of the Let’s Read! Let’s Move! series will be on July 17, 24, August 1 and 6. Each event supports First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative, which promotes healthy eating and an active lifestyle, while also encouraging strong early learning programs to ensure bright futures for children. Watch the video below for highlights from the kickoff event.


Click here for an alternate version of the video with an accessible player.

Kelsey Donohue works in the Office of Communication and Outreach at the U.S. Department of Education.

Wrapping Up the Let’s Read! Let’s Move! Summer Series

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose,” read former NFL player Brian Mitchell during the final installment of ED’s Let’s Read! Let’s Move! summer series on Monday. Mitchell read Dr. Seuss’s popular book Oh, The Places You’ll Go!, which encourages children to reach for their dreams. It was the perfect lead-in for the Let’s Move! portion of the event where children from the local area participated in fitness activities and games on the Department of Education’s plaza.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Cecilia Muñoz, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, joined Mitchell for the final Let’s Read! Let’s Move! summer series. Three other Let’s Read! Let’s Move! events were held on July 11, July 18, and July 25. Each event supported First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! Initiative, which promotes healthy eating and an active lifestyle, while also encouraging summer reading and adult participation.


Click here for an alternate version of the video with an accessible player.

Cydney Adams is a student at the University of Georgia and an intern in ED’s Office of Communications and Outreach.

Team Squash and Team Broccoli Get Going at ‘Let’s Read! Let’s Move!’

Can you imagine young children debating over which fruit or vegetable is their favorite? At the third installment of ED’s Let’s Read! Let’s Move! summer series, that is exactly what happened. As the students arrived, they were put into groups named after fruits and vegetables, ranging from Team Strawberry to Team Squash.  “I love broccoli,” said Alyssa, a rising 3rd grader from Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling Youth Center, when she was assigned to Team Broccoli for the day. “Carrots are my favorite,” said her friend Jaden. Luckily, they found common ground with their mutual dislike for lima beans.

A group of more than 150 local students joined Secretary Arne Duncan, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Services Wendy Spencer, DC Public Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson, and U.S. Representatives Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) and Danny Davis (D-IL) for reading and physical activities at the Department of Education.

The students listened closely as the guests read popular children’s books such as Knuffle Bunny by Mo Willems, I Believe In You by Marianne Richmond, and Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker and Tom Lichtenheld. They quizzed Henderson, Davis, and Spencer on everything from their favorite books to their favorite teachers. “When we read, we become friends with people who write books because they share their experiences with us,” Henderson told the children.

Kofi Dennis, a Ghana native, a teacher, artist and musician from the Wolf Trap Institute, entertained the children before the readings. and led them outside to the beat of his drum to begin the Let’s Move! portion of the event.

At the end of the day, each child left with a new book and book bag provided by Target. Other Let’s Read! Let’s Move! events were held on July 11th and July 18th, and the last one is scheduled for July 30th. Each event supports First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative, which promotes healthy eating and an active lifestyle, while also encouraging summer reading and adult participation.


Click here for an alternate version of the video with an accessible player.

Cydney Adams is a student at the University of Georgia and an intern in ED’s Office of Communications and Outreach.

ED Wraps Up Its Let’s Read! Let’s Move! Summer Series

Special guest Dora the Explorer joined Secretary Duncan and ED Senior Advisor on Early Learning Jacqueline Jones to encourage young students to be physically active and to keep reading during the final Let’s Read! Let’s Move! event at ED headquarters Tuesday afternoon.

Duncan and Jones read Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! by Mo Willems, sparking an animated discussion with the children over what would happen if the book’s pigeon began to operate a motor vehicle, one particularly enthused young student shouted “he would go to jail,” much to the amusement of the adults in attendance.

Following the Let’s Read portion of the event, the students joined Dora in exploring the obstacle courses and participating in physical activities. The fitness activities are part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative to emphasize the importance of an active and healthy lifestyle.


Click here for an alternate version of the video with an accessible player.

This week’s event marks the end to the 2011 Let’s Read! Let’s Move! series; for more information on the initiative and its sponsors, read our previous posts on this summer’s first, second, and third Let’s Read! Let’s Move! events.

Noah Bokat-Lindell and Simone Zhang are interns at the Department of Education.

Let’s Read! Let’s Move!, Part III

(Official Department of Education Photo by Leslie Williams)

“You don’t have to be a professional writer to tell a story. So go out and tell a story!” Maya Soetoro-Ng told a group of young students gathered for ED’s third installment of its Let’s Read! Let’s Move! summer series.

Soetoro-Ng, an author and half sister to President Obama, joined former Washington Redskins linebacker Chris Draft, Top Chef alumnus Spike Mendelsohn, Corporation for National and Community Service CEO Robert Velasco II, and ED’s deputy chief of staff Eric Waldo at ED headquarters to encourage young students to be physically active and to keep reading.

Following the Let’s Read! portion of the event, the students joined Draft and YMCA staff in navigating an obstacle course and other physical activities during the Let’s Move! segment. The fitness activities are part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative to emphasize the importance of an active and healthy lifestyle.

For more information on the Let’s Read! Let’s Move! series and its sponsors, read our blog about this summer’s first and second Let’s Read! Let’s Move! events.

Click here for an alternate version of the video with an accessible player.

The final Let’s Read! Let’s Move! event is scheduled for July 26.

Noah Bokat-Lindell is an intern in the Office of Legislation and  Congressional Affairs at the Department of Education.

Kicking Off the 2011 Let’s Read! Let’s Move! Series


From left to right, Arne, Attorney General Holder and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Official Department of Education Photo by Leslie Williams

“Congratulations! Today is your day. You’re off to Great Places! You’re off and away!” read U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder last week to over 100 students from DC area schools and Early Head Start programs at ED’s first installment of this year’s Let’s Read! Let’s Move! series held at ED headquarters. Holder joined Secretary Duncan, NBA Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Miss America 2011 Teresa Scanlan in kicking off the 2011 Let’s Read! Let’s Move! series that seeks to increase awareness of the importance of summer learning and encourage adults to read to children.

Miss America 2011 Teresa Scanlan. Official Department of Education Photo by Leslie Williams

Holder offered a spirited rendition of Dr. Seuss’ Oh, the Places You’ll Go!, while Abdul-Jabbar read Mina Javaherbin’s Goal, a book about a group of South African children who overcome bullying to follow their love of playing soccer. Following the reading, students discussed the importance of reading, eating healthy, and staying fit and participated in a series of fitness stations as part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Lets Move! initiative.

After the activities, the students snacked on fruit and granola bars and received an autographed children’s book from Scanlan. Each school that participated in the event received a book for its school library signed by all the celebrities at the event. Students from Joint Base Anacostia Bolling Youth Center, Edward C. Mazique Parent Child Center, Inc., Children’s Choice Learning Center, and the Parents Coalition of Montgomery County attended the event.

ED’s Let’s Read! Let’s Move! series brings together Cabinet members, administration officials and other public figures to read children’s books and promote healthy lifestyles. ED’s partners for this year’s series include the YMCA of Metropolitan Washington Physical, Healthy, Drive (PHD) program that will contribute staff and resources to conduct games, Target will provide books and healthy snacks, and Nickelodeon will provide cookbooks and pedometers.


Click here for an alternate version of the video with an accessible player.

See more photos.

Additional Let’s Read! Let’s Move! events are scheduled for July 12, 20, and 26.

Noah Bokat-Lindell and Eugene Smith are interns at the Department of Education.

“Let’s Move!” Rolls to a Rocking Rhythm

Harlem Globe Trotter Anthony Blakes shoots hoops with kids attending a “Let’s Move!” family fun fair at the Harlem Children’s Zone in NYC, which included participation from regional ED staffers.

Last week Secretary Duncan joined First Lady Michelle Obama on a phone call to congratulate schools that have started Let’s Move! programs and to encourage other schools to do the same. This was a check-in after one year of the initiative.

ED has done its part to support the effort by participating in commemorative events across the country. From joining kids in a giant Kansas City conga line to teaching students to make fruit and veggie smoothies in Keene, NH, ED’s regional communications and outreach staff worked with HHS and USDA counterparts to highlight progress towards healthy lifestyles at nationwide events in February. They helped to identify great school-based fitness and nutrition programs to showcase in their regions and were part of joint federal teams to generate strong community participation for those activities aimed at supporting the First Lady’s campaign that combats childhood obesity.

Regional staff members were active participants at 9 of the Let’s Move! events. Their contributions were diverse. The Philadelphia office discussed the vital link between healthy habits and academic achievement and later helped at the Bethlehem, PA, Broughal Middle School celebration. The Denver office participated in the Commerce City, CO, family fair. At events respectively in Keene, NH, and Grand Prairie, TX, the Boston and Dallas offices encouraged students to try celebrity chefs’ nutritious culinary treats at home. The Kansas City office attended several local activities, including an opportunity to rock-n-roll alongside Ingles Elementary School students. Chicago office staff performed stretches led by “Benny the Bull,” the Chicago Bulls’ mascot, with students of Chicago’s Namaste Charter School. And New York helped guide families to diverse exhibits aimed at inspiring healthy food and fitness choices at New York City’s Harlem Children’s Zone — the inspiration for ED’s Promise Neighborhoods program.

The Atlanta office joined the First Lady at Atlanta Public Schools’ Burgess-Peterson Academy, where Mrs. Obama handed-out fresh blueberries to excited students and teachers, and toured the organic garden.

“It’s a conversation about what our kids eat and how active they are,” Mrs. Obama later told parents and community leaders at North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, near Atlanta.  She said that it’s “about how they feel about themselves, and about what that means — not just their physical and emotional health, but for their success in school and in life.”

Julie Ewart is the Senior Public Affairs Specialist in the Chicago Regional Office. She is the mother of three school-aged children.