WEST ORANGE, NJ – As an author, editor, ambassador and health advocate, West Orange resident CC Minton encourages and educates her readers with words and stories. On July 10, she added an inspiring and valuable experience to her arsenal: attending the Kids State Dinner at the White House.

The Kids State Dinner is an annual event held in connection to First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” Initiative and the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge.

“Eight to 12-year-olds from across the nation are invited to create a lunchtime recipe that has to be healthy, it has to be affordable, original and of course delicious,” explained Minton. “They are encourage to reference the USDA’s ‘Choose My Plate,’ which is sort of like the food pyramid, and the reason for that is they want it to be balanced and to be in compliance with the USDA’s recommended nutrition guide.”

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Each US state and territory sent one winner of the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge to the White House for the Kids State Dinner. As a result, the event honored 55 young chefs.

Though Minton’s children have long aged out of the challenge, she used her own initiative to attend. Minton has been professionally involved in health and fitness for over 15 years. She is a member of the West Orange Board of Education’s Wellness Council and works as an event ambassador for Harlem World Magazine. She is also the editor for the Harlem Wellness Challenge, a yearlong challenge run through Harlem World Magazine, and writes a section entitled “Up Close With CC Minton.”

Minton said, “What we are doing is sharing information with our readers in terms of health and wellness. We’ve covered things like healthy skin, and we were involved in a ‘Harlem Gets Fit’ campaign with an organization called Harlem Run. We’re going to be covering mental health, so we’re trying to not just health and fitness and healthy eating, but we’re also trying to touch on other parts of wellness that are important but that people might not be about to talk about.”

The Harlem Wellness Challenge has also highlighted celebrity chefs and Olympic athletes to promote their healthy lifestyles.

Minton’s many efforts to promote health and wellness in her community won her the Community Leadership Award from the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition in 2014.

“I think of myself as a healthy lifestyle ambassador, and I contacted them as a recipient of the award letting them know that I would like to cover the event for the Harlem Wellness Challenge,” she said.

Her ambition earned her the chance to experience the Kids State Dinner, where she met the enthusiastic participants, took a tour of the White House Kitchen Gardens and was even entertained by the cast of Broadway’s Aladdin. 

“It was overwhelming,” Minton said. “I was so impressed with the young chefs. They were very motivated; they were excited about their recipes. It was an exciting event.”

Attendees also met First Lady Michelle Obama, and received a special surprise when her husband “crashed” the party.

“Her excitement has not dwindled. And he was great with the young chefs. He spoke to each and every one of them, he congratulated them. Although he did not stay for the dinner, he was very much a part of it and the attendees were so excited,” Minton said of the Obamas.

Minton appreciated the goal of both the initiative and the event, which was to inspire healthier lifestyles at a young age.

“Children bring fresh ideas,” she said. “As Michelle Obama said, children don’t always listen to adults, and she even said they don’t listen to her as first lady all the time, but other children will listen to children. It was absolutely lovely. It was a once in a lifetime experience, especially to be there with children.”

As a children’s author, Minton knows well how to reach kids’ ears. Her book, Daddy’s Greek Potato Pie, tells the story of a boy and his friend as they help the boy’s father create a “nutritious and delicious” pie.

“It’s a book about healthy eating—what else would it be about?” she said with a laugh.

“Throughout the story, they go on a journey about self-discovery about nutrition and health and pretty much everything from fiber to fats,” she said. “Children love hearing the story because there are some fun and silly moments. The reason why I wrote it as a children’s books is that my children were no longer children anymore. And I love children, so I wanted to keep that connection. And I do think that when you reach children, there’s a better opportunity for them to create healthy habits. Once we become adults, it can become more and more challenging. I also felt like if I reached children, a lot of times parents will do things for their children that they won’t do for themselves, so that could inspire parents to be healthier as well.”

Minton has recently made guest appearances at the West Orange Public Library, South Orange Maplewood School District, Harlem Book Fair QBR at at Military Park and First Mountain Pre-School in West Orange. She was also a guest author at Whole Foods Market, during National Nutrition Month in March.

Although she has no immediate plans for more books, she continues her work with Harlem World Magazine to keep encouraging health and wellness. Her next step, she said, is to create more hands-on opportunities for kids in the kitchen.

Minton’s contagious fervor for spreading the ideals of a healthy lifestyle is best shown by the quote she attaches to all her communications: “A healthy lifestyle is not a luxury, it’s a necessity!”