News Bites: Rhode Island Boy’s Recipe Wins White House State Dinner Invitation, Senator Reed and Summer Food Service Program, Amos House Lunch Series & Cooking Classes

by David Dadekian
Kinnan Dowie will represent RI at the White House's Healthy Lunchtime Challenge

Kinnan Dowie will represent RI at the White House’s Healthy Lunchtime Challenge

Current news releases—Eat Drink RI is not the source for these items—please follow any links for more information.

Rhode Island Boy’s Recipe Wins White House State Dinner Invitation

Challenge with his recipe entitled “Mediterranean Kebab Wrap with Cilantro Tabbouleh”. On June 11th, First Lady Michelle Obama, Epicurious, the Department of Education, and the Department of Agriculture announced the winners of the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge, a nationwide recipe challenge to promote healthy lunches as part of the First Lady’s Let’s Move! initiative. Winners representing all U.S. states, three territories, and the District of Columbia were invited to attend a Kids’ “State Dinner” at the White House hosted by Mrs. Obama on July 18. Kinnan and 53 other children 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.

Twelve-year-old Kinnan started cooking with his mother at a very early age, gradually helping with more complex recipes. An avid watcher of the PBS cooking shows, his competency increased as the years progressed. So it didn’t surprise his family, (consisting of his maternal grandmother, parents, and an older and younger brother), when he closed off the kitchen for several hours last April. He set to work on a special recipe of his own creation that he later submitted to the 2014 Healthy Lunchtime Challenge.

“I made food I knew would taste good and that other kids would be open to try and enjoy,” acknowledged Kinnan. He decided to make something that he would enjoy himself, a variation on a meal that his family often makes. His mother had recently purchased ground chicken so he decided to use it. “Normally we make these kebabs with ground lamb or beef, but all we had at the time was chicken. Since ground chicken tends to come out dry and a bit bland I decided to try adding some chopped parsley and cilantro into it,” he explained. “I then set out to make the ultimate ‘Syrian Pepper’ – a mixture of spices that we use a lot in our family.”

He filled small bowls of various spices and herbs in different amounts and mixed individual batches that he then had his family sample. He realized that he needed a side dish to accompany his kebabs and decided on making tabbouleh. To his dismay, he had used all of his parsley in making the kebabs, so he turned to the cilantro. To his surprise, it worked, “I loved it!” he said. “I think it tasted even better than it does with parsley!”

That exercise led to the final recipe which was written on a scrap of paper and transferred to the online application form which was quickly submitted. After that, “I lost the scrap of paper, so even though I know what spices I put in my recipe, I can’t remember what the exact amounts of each spice were! ” Kinnan said with a chuckle and added, “I’ll have to ask the White House for the recipe!”

When asked why he chose to make a Middle Eastern/Mediterranean dish, he explained, “I love all types of ethnic food – especially Middle Eastern. The challenge was to make something healthy. Mediterranean food is delicious and really healthy! I’m part Syrian on my mom’s side and have learned from watching her and my grandmother cooking that type of food.”

Kinnan is currently home schooled and is in the 6th grade. He has received grants and has attended enrichment programs at Harvard and MIT. He is a proud member of the North Providence Barracuda Swim Team. He enjoys acting and has received scholarships to perform with the Young Actors Studio at Trinity Repertory Company. This past spring he attended the four day Fit2Cook4Kids cooking camp for children, an experience that reinforced his love for cooking.

When asked how he felt about having won, Kinnan remarked, “I’m so excited to be invited to the White House, it’s such an incredible honor! “It’s going to be awesome to meet Mrs. Obama, and to know that the White House chefs are actually going to be making the recipes that we submitted! It all just feels like an unbelievable dream!”

Reed Hopes to Reach More Children Through RI Summer Food Program

With many schools set to break for the summer, U.S. Senator Jack Reed is working to ensure children at risk of going hungry have access to nutritious foods throughout the year.  Reed says federal, state, and local governments are teaming up with non-profits and community partners to help provide over 312,000 meals this summer to students in need.  Offering free, nutritious meals also provides an incentive for children to participate in summer enrichment programs, ensuring that kids are well-fed and have a safe environment where they can engage in recreational and educational activities.

Reed, a member of the Appropriations Committee, has worked at the federal level to provide funding for the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), a federal nutrition program run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), to help serve Rhode Island during the summer months.  Last summer, the state received over $840,000 for the SFSP to serve more than 8,000 kids per day at 184 sites around the state.

The federal Summer Food Service Program is open to any child 18 years of age and younger, and gives them the opportunity to enjoy a free, nutritious meals for most of the summer.  The program is administered by the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) in conjunction with community partners throughout the state, such as the Providence Department of Parks & Recreation and the Rhode Island Community Food Bank, and operates Mondays through Fridays.  Different cities have different kickoff dates, with most starting around June 30 or July 1.  Rhode Islanders wishing to learn more about the program should visit RIDE’s website or call the National Hunger Hotline toll free at 1-866-3-HUNGRY, or 1-877-8-HAMBRE.  Rhode Islanders may also call the United Way of Rhode Island information line at 2-1-1.

“This program makes a real difference for these families and is a smart investment in healthy communities,” said Reed, who says the cost of the program depends on the number of meals served, but the state is reimbursed by federal USDA funds.  “No child in this great state of ours should be forced to go hungry.  I want to ensure every kid who needs a healthy meal is getting one and every family that needs help knows it is available.”

Reed is seeking to improve outreach efforts and spread the word to ensure all children who need nutrition assistance may participate Summer Food Service Program.  He noted that Rhode Island is one of several states that has received technical assistance from USDA to help boost participation.  USDA officials are working with Rhode Island and key stakeholders to develop action plans to improve program participation.  The goal this year is to increase participation by as much as 10 percent throughout the state and add over a dozen sites to improve access.

During the school year, over 78,000 Rhode Island students participate in the national school lunch program.  However, a recent report from the Food Research and Action Center showed that only 14.2 percent of Rhode Island students who received meals during the school year were reached by summer nutrition programs last summer.

“Kids should enjoy the summer, but we don’t want them taking a break from good nutrition.  This program brings kids together in a positive environment, gives them a chance to get a square meal, and keeps people working throughout the summer,” noted Reed.

The USDA and RIDE are also looking for sponsors in areas of need to register as food providers.  Sponsorship is limited to public or private nonprofit school food authorities, state or local governments, public or private non-profit colleges or universities that are operating the National Youth Sports Program, public or private non-profit residential summer camps, and private non-profit organizations that operate special summer programs.  Sponsors may hire a vendor, but most prepare the meals themselves and are reimbursed through the state at a rate of about $3.50 per lunch served, and about $2 per breakfast served.  Learn more on how to become a sponsor.

Amos House Announces Friday Lunch Series and New Cooking Classes at the Friendship Café

Amos House is pleased to announce the start of the Amos Culinary Program’s Friday Lunch series at the Friendship Café, located at 500 Broad Street in Providence.  The Friendship Café opened in 2010 as a neighborhood eatery and has transformed over the past four years into a true classroom and lab for our Amos Culinary Education Students as well as a function space for the community.

Amos House began the Amos Culinary Education Program (ACE) in 2002 to address the high unemployment rate of the men and women living in our shelter programs.  The program has graduated over 600 students, most of who are now employed in the local hospitality industry.  This 16 week program gives students hands-on training and instruction that prepares them to pass the National Serve Safe Exam as well as customer service and hospitality certification.

Every Friday the Amos Culinary Education Class hosts lunch at the Café with a menu based on current class teachings.  This gives students experience in preparing and serving food in a real world setting. All proceeds from Friday lunches go directly to support the Amos Culinary Education program. Each three course meal is $9 and has two seatings (11:30am and 1pm). An upcoming lunch schedule is listed below and more information can be found at

Amos House is also holding cooking classes and demonstrations that are open to the public at the Friendship Cafe.  The classes help participants expand their culinary knowledge and learn the tricks of the trade, all while supporting Amos House. You can view upcoming classes below.

The Café is also offers a unique space for private events, holding up to 60 people and offering menus that are customizable to coordinate with any theme.

For more information, and to make a lunch or class reservation, visit  For questions or to reserve the space, please contact our Food Business Coordinator, Sarah LaFerriere at or 401.272.0220 x 215.

Amos Culinary Program’s Friday Lunch

June 20th –  Barbecue! –  Just in time for the official start of summer our culinary students will be cooking and serving up a three-course barbecue lunch! Come on in for a half rack or ribs, fresh coleslaw, fries and vegetable. Vegetarian option available as well.

June 27th – Build your own Burger – The Amos Culinary class will be throwing hand-made burgers and veggie burgers on the grill and giving you a chance to build them just the way you like! Toppings include lettuce, tomato, caramelized onions, mushrooms, pickles, avocado cream, bacon, fried egg, coleslaw and American, Swiss, blue, or cheddar cheese. Served with fries.

July 4th – Holiday (closed)

July 11th – TGIF&CF (thank goodness it’s fish & chips Friday) – Join us for crispy battered haddock, french fries, tartar sauce, and fresh coleslaw prepared by the Amos Culinary Education class. Vegetarian options are available as well.

For more information, contact Sarah LaFerriere –

Cooking Classes at the Friendship Cafe

Classes are hands-on, and participants learn unique recipes, as well as tips and techniques that will be useful for those who have never cooked, or those who are budding chefs. Classes are $65 per person, and are from 5:30 to 8:30pm. Only 8 spots are available for each class. Proceeds from these events go to support Amos House.

June 25 – Paella and Ceviche – Intimidated by the thought of making Paella? Love ceviche but worried about working with raw fish? We’ll teach you the tricks and techniques that will make preparing both of these dishes a piece of cake! At the end of the evening, sit down and sample your creations while enjoying a selection of paired wines.

July 30th – Summer Salads – Salads are light, simple and quick to throw together – ideal for dining on the patio or by the pool. You’ll learn new tricks as well as imaginative recipes so that you’ll be able to create a fresh and delicious salad for any occasion. At the end of the evening, sit down and sample your creations while enjoying a selection of paired wines.

September 24th – Fall Harvest Menu – As the outside air grows crisp, and the leaves start to turn orange and red, the flavors of the fall harvest are not far behind! Learn how to best use fresh local ingredients from this bountiful time of year for your next family dinner, or party with friends. At the end of the evening, sit down and sample your creations while enjoying a selection of paired wines and locally crafted beers.


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