Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Photo By Michael Alexander
Jackson Kelly, 9, adds two of his favorite vegetables, mushrooms and zucchini, along with Vidalia onions, to the sauce for his winning Healthy Lunchtime Challenge recipe of spaghetti squash and turkey Bolognese.


St. Jude School foodie rewarded with trip to White House

By ANDREW NELSON, Staff writer | Published September 1, 2016

ATLANTA—St. Jude School fourth-grader Jackson Kelly sat down as an honored guest at the White House as part the fifth annual Healthy Lunchtime Challenge to promote cooking and healthy eating among young people.

Young chefs, ages 8-12, helped by a parent or guardian, were given the challenge to create an original, healthy, affordable and tasty lunch. Jackson, who is 9, was among the 56 winners, one from each U.S. state, five territories, and the District of Columbia, to meet First Lady Michelle Obama in July at the White House for the fifth annual Kids’ “State Dinner.”

Jackson created a healthy version of spaghetti and meat sauce. Using Georgia’s Vidalia onions, he substituted turkey for the beef, cooked in a Bolognese sauce and served over spaghetti squash, not pasta. He served it with whole wheat toast drizzled with olive oil, and mango for dessert. Get his recipe for Spaghetti Squash and Turkey Bolognese..

Once the school year began, the pint-sized chef prepared it for his classmates. It was featured on a lunch menu at St. Jude School Aug. 25 where students had the chance to taste the winning recipe.

Jackson answered some questions from The Georgia Bulletin by email.


GB: What got you interested in cooking? And how old were you?

Jackson: My friend in school told me she cooks for her family once a week. I asked my parents if I could start cooking, too. We started last year when I was 8 years old.


GB: Tell me about your dish submitted to the White House. How did you brainstorm to create it? Who do you think would enjoy it?

Jackson: I submitted a spaghetti squash with turkey Bolognese sauce recipe. The first thing I cooked with my mom was spaghetti and meatballs from Emeril’s cookbook. It’s one of my favorite things to eat. We’ve had spaghetti squash before so I wanted to see if we could make a spaghetti sauce recipe with my favorite vegetables to serve over spaghetti squash instead of pasta. I think anyone who likes spaghetti and meat sauce would enjoy it.


GB: What is a happy memory about your trip to the White House?

Jackson: It was really exciting to meet Michelle Obama. It was so cool to walk through all the fancy rooms and furniture. My favorite room was the library.


GB: What would you tell others about why they should spend time in the kitchen, cooking and eating healthy meals?

Jackson: I would tell kids that if you eat healthy foods then you will become stronger. I would tell kids it’s fun to cook, too, because you can be creative and make your own recipes and then you get to eat them! And it’s important to try new foods, and you can find out how many healthy meals are really yummy, too. At the White House, we heard another winner tell us that eating healthy foods is like having a party for your belly.


GB: What’s your favorite food served at St. Jude School?

Jackson: I usually pack my lunch, but my parents let me look at the menu and choose a couple days a month to buy lunch. My favorite meal is the tomato soup and grilled cheese.


GB: Do you have a favorite cookbook you use? Who is the better cook in your house, your mom, dad or you?

Jackson: I have used Emeril’s “There’s a Chef in my Soup” in the past, but now I am excited to try all the recipes in the cookbook we received from the White House. The best cook in my house is me! Ha, ha, ha. No, really, both of my parents are good cooks. My mom cooks more, but I guess my dad is better.

The free Kids’ “State Dinner” cookbook is online: