By Lori Fredrich Senior Writer & Dining Editor Published Jun 24, 2016 at 2:17 PM

The winners were announced today for the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge, a recipe challenge that invites 8- to 12-year-olds across the nation to create healthy, affordable, original and delicious lunch recipes showcasing balanced nutrition and locally grown ingredients.

More than 1,200 entries were received from children across the U.S., with 56 winners chosen from all 50 U.S. states, five territories and the District of Columbia.

Among the winning entries is a recipe for Wisconsin cranberry chickpea salad from Raya El-Hajjar, an 8-year-old from Whitefish Bay.

"In my family, we eat a lot of hummus, and lately I wanted to know where hummus comes from," says El-Hajjar of her recipe. "I read an article that said that the main ingredient in hummus is chickpeas. I discovered that chickpeas are really a super food, and they are so tasty too!

"In the summer, my brother and sister and I love to pick fresh vegetables from our backyard, and we make different kinds of salads with them. So for this salad, we used our parsley and red and yellow peppers. Wisconsin is famous for cheese and cranberries. This is an easy, delicious salad that has all the nutrients you need!"

Wisconsin cranberry chickpea salad

Makes 4 servings
312 calories, 12 g. fat, 38 g. Carbohydrates, 15 g. Protein

2 15 ounce cans of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 bunch parsley, finely chopped
Juice of one fresh lemon
¼ tsp. Salt
1 T olive oil
1 red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
3 ounces feta, cubed
2 T dried cranberries


  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the chickpeas and parsley. Add the lemon juice, salt and olive oil and stir thoroughly to combine.
  2. On a large serving platter, arrange the chickpea salad and add the red and yellow bell pepper slices around it. Sprinkle the feta and cranberries on top and enjoy with family or friends!

Off to the White House

The winners were chosen by a panel of judges, including: Debra Eschmeyer, Executive Director of Let's Move!and Senior Policy Advisor for Nutrition; Lauren Purcell, Editor-in-Chief of Rachael Ray Every Day Magazine; Jackie Haven, MS, RD, Deputy Director, USDA's Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion; Stephenie Fu, Senior Policy Advisor, USDA's Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion; Gena Kochan, Office of General Counsel, USDA; Kristina Spencer, Office of the General Counsel, U.S. Department of Education; Tanya Steel, Editorial Director of Clean Plates; previous Healthy Lunchtime Challenge winners; and participants in the Common Threads program for children.

All winners, including El-Hajjar, will attend a Kids' "State Dinner" at the White House hosted by First Lady Michelle Obama on July 14. The 56 aspiring young chefs and a parent or guardian will join the First Lady for a healthy lunch, featuring a selection of the winning recipes, followed by a visit to the White House Kitchen Garden.

In addition, at the Kids' "State Dinner," winners will have the opportunity to learn from Rachael Ray, the author, daytime host, child nutrition advocate and member of the President's Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition, whose Yum-o! organization has joined to support this year's Healthy Lunchtime Challenge.

The full list of winners and recipes can be found online at A free downloadable and printable e-cookbook, including full recipes, will also be made available online beginning July 14.

Lori Fredrich Senior Writer & Dining Editor

Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club. 

When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.