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Quaker Common Threads

Usually the best part of making food is when you get to eat it. Unless it lands you a free trip to the White House, that is.

Then that's definitely the best part. 12-year-old Joey Heidari from Olathe, Kansas, could tell you all about when that happened to her. Her lentil tacos were so special, they sent her straight to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Joey about to enter the White House. Image via Abby Heidari, used with permission.


"I really feel like it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Joey told the KC Star about how a her recipe put her face-to-face with first lady Michelle Obama.

Quite an opportunity, indeed. And one that Joey and 55 other kids can say they've experienced just this year.

56 young chefs ranging in age from 8 to 12 have won the fifth annual Healthy Lunchtime Challenge with their unique recipes.  

The challenge? To create an original, nutritious, affordable, and delicious lunch recipe.

The winners — representing each state, five territories, and the District of Columbia — celebrated their victories with a three-course "State Dinner" at the White House, hosted by Michelle Obama. (A total dream? I think so.)

Photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP.

From Alabama's Green Chicken Wrap and Fruit-tacular Salad to Wisconsin's Cranberry Chickpea Salad, every kid contestant put together an exciting dish meant for people of all ages to enjoy. You can see the full list of winning recipes here.

Joey, representing Kansas, won a spot at the table with her recipe for Lentil Tacos with Cilantro-Avocado Drizzle and a Mango-Peach Smoothie. YUM.

Joey's winning recipe. Image via Abby Heidari.

“We’re so very proud of Joey, and it’s wonderful to watch her blossom with confidence, both in and outside the kitchen," said her mom, Abby.

Getting kids involved in cooking has other benefits beyond confidence.

The earlier kids start cultivating well-rounded eating and cooking habits, the more likely they'll stick with them as they grow older.

Photo via USDA/Flickr.

Habits are real, people!

When kids are able to help out in the kitchen, it gives them a hands-on way to try new foods, use their imaginations and all their senses, and even work on their math and communication skills. All of that can go a long way.

"You can take the most introverted kid and they just come alive when you get them involved in cooking, "said Sara Haas, a spokesperson with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, to CBS News.

Cooking gives kids a better understanding of where their food comes from, too.

It's one of the reasons this year's Healthy Lunchtime Competition placed such a heavy focus on locally-sourced ingredients. The young chefs were encouraged to learn about and use ingredients they could find in their area, adding some home-state pride to their dishes and helping to educate others on their communities through food. Learning while eating ... um yes, please!

We all know a well-rounded diet can help kids to grow and focus and learn. Letting them experiment in the kitchen and follow recipes can only add to that positive impact.

Not to mention it shows them that messing up is normal and to keep trying.

Whipping up something at the age of 5. Image via Abby Heidari.

"When you start cooking, you can’t be afraid to make mistakes," said Joey. "The first time I made macaroni and cheese from a box, I didn’t drain the water, and we had macaroni and cheese soup. But I learned from my mistake, and now it’s an experience we talk about that makes us laugh."

She got to laugh all the way to the White House.

Education

Teacher of the year explains why he's leaving district in unforgettable 3-minute speech

"I'm leaving in hopes that I can regain the ability to do the job that I love."

Lee Allen

For all of our disagreements in modern American life, there are at least a few things most of us can agree on. One of those is the need for reform in public education. We don't all agree on the solutions but many of the challenges are undeniable: retaining great teachers, reducing classroom size and updating the focus of student curriculums to reflect the ever-changing needs of a globalized workforce.

And while parents, politicians and activists debate those remedies, one voice is all-too-often ignored: that of teachers themselves.

This is why a short video testimony from a teacher in the Atlanta suburb of Gwinnett County went viral recently. After all, it's hard to deny the points made by someone who was just named teacher of the year and used the occasion to announce why he will be leaving the very school district that just honored him with that distinction.

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Joy

Tea time: how this boutique blends cultures from around the world

Ethically sourced, modern clothes for kids that embrace adventure, inspire connections and global thinking.

The Tea Collection combines philanthropic efforts with a deep rooted sense of multiculturalism into each of their designs so that kids can grow up with global sensibilities. They make clothes built to last with practicality and adventure in mind. But why "Tea"?

Let's spill it. Tea is a drink shared around the world with people from all different cultures. It is a common thread that weaves the world together. The Tea Collection was born from a love of travel and a love of sharing tea with different people in different places. Inspired by patterns from around the world, these clothes help children develop a familiarity with global communities.

Tea sources their materials ethically and ensures that each of their partners abide to strict codes of conduct. They have a zero-tolerance policy for anything "even slightly questionable" and make sure that they regularly visit their manufacturing partners to ensure that they're supporting positive working conditions.

Since 2003, The Tea Collection has partnered with the Global Fund for Children and has invested in different grassroots organizations that create community empowered programs to uplift kids in need. They donate 10% of their proceeds and have already contributed over $500,000 to different organizations such as: The Homeless Prenatal Program (San Francisco, CA, USA), Door of Faith Orphanage (Baja California, Mexico), Little Sisters Fund (Nepal) and others in Peru, Sri Lanka, India, Italy and Haiti.

But the best part about the Tea Collection? They're also an official member of the Kidizen Rewear Collective, which believes that clothes should stretch far beyond one child's use. They have their own external site for their preloved clothes that makes rewearing affordable. Families can trade in gently used Tea clothes and receive discounts for future products. Shopping the site helps keep clothes out of land fills and reduces the environmental impact of the fashion industry.

By creating heirloom style clothing made to last families can buy, sell, and trade clothes that can be reworn again and again. Because "new to you" doesn't always have to mean never been worn. And let's be honest, we all know how fast kids grow! Shopping preloved clothes is a great way to keep styles fresh without harming the environment or feeling guilty about not getting the most out of certain styles.

But don't just take our word for it! Head over to the Tea Collection and see for yourself!

Upworthy has earned revenue through a partnership and/or may earn a portion of sales revenue from purchases made through links on our site.

Hold on, Frankie! Mama's coming!

How do you explain motherhood in a nutshell? Thanks to Cait Oakley, who stopped a preying bald eagle from capturing her pet goose as she breastfed her daughter, we have it summed up in one gloriously hilarious TikTok.

The now viral video shows the family’s pet goose, Frankie, frantically squawking as it gets dragged off the porch by a bald eagle—likely another mom taking care of her own kiddos.

Wearing nothing but her husband’s boxers while holding on to her newborn, Willow, Oakley dashes out of the house and successfully comes to Frankie's rescue while yelling “hey, hey hey!”

The video’s caption revealed that the Oakleys had already lost three chickens due to hungry birds of prey, so nothing was going to stop “Mama bear” from protecting “sweet Frankie.” Not even a breastfeeding session.

Oakley told TODAY Parents, “It was just a split second reaction ...There was nowhere to put Willow down at that point.” Sometimes being a mom means feeding your child and saving your pet all at the same time.

As for how she feels about running around topless in her underwear on camera, Oakley declared, “I could have been naked and I’m like, ‘whatever, I’m feeding my baby.’”

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