Haile Thomas’ adventures in the kitchen have taken her on a journey across North America with a message for her peers—eat healthy.
The 12-year-old Tucson chef, who has been in the kitchen with her mother since she was 5, has dazzled people around the country with a culinary prowess normally reserved for those with years of education and experience. Her passion for healthy, creative and delicious meals goes beyond her You Tube videos, where she and her 8-year-old sister, Nia, first encouraged kids to learn how to cook. Since gaining the attention of just about everyone—from local media, to celebrity chefs, to the First Lady herself—Haile has stepped center stage as a guest speaker, panelist and consultant to share her message about stopping childhood obesity.
“She calls herself a youth health advocate,” says her mother, Charmaine Thomas. “It got started with Kids Can Cook videos, but she’s evolved into an advocate and a speaker, and she does a lot of community events to empower and engage her peers. It is so much more than cooking at this point.”
Haile is one of 21 children across the nation to be on the Youth Advisory Board for the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. She has met President Obama and represented First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign at the 2013 State of the Union address.
“I’m really grateful to have met all of those amazing people,” Haile says. ”This has been a great three years and I am enjoying every step of it.”
There she was the only child sitting among a panel of experts including some of her idols—personal trainer Jillian Michaels and world-renowned healing pioneer Deepak Chopra. Haile brings a youthful perspective to the challenges children face, and suggests part of the solution is to make healthy choices fun.
“I’ve been exposed to the terrible things that are going inside of our food and terrible statistics about childhood obesity and seeing my friends making bad choices. I want to inform my peers about eating healthy and staying active. It’s a habit that should stay with you forever.”
Her list of accomplishments rivals many adult entrepreneurs. Her latest endeavors include a partnership with Hyatt Hotels as a junior chef consultant to create a “by kids for kids” menu; a new cooking show called Mix It Up with Haile; and her own non-profit called the HAPPY organization.
Mix it Up with Haile is a cooking show that will empower children to get in the kitchen while teaching them about ingredients, nutrition, and ways to stay healthy.
The HAPPY organization—an acronym for Healthy, Active, Positive and Purposeful Youth—has partnered with the YWCA to host healthy lifestyle and nutrition classes for underprivileged youth in the Tucson area.
Haile offered some easy changes that can be made to improve your health: limit the amount of salt in your diet, add more fruits and vegetables, grow your own garden, eat organic, limit sugary and processed foods, and get moving.
“I not only want myself to live a healthy life. I think everyone deserves to have a healthy life. and nourishing our bodies is a good thing to do to make sure our generation lives long and healthy lives.”
What’s next for Haile?
“I think that I should get a degree in culinary arts and public speaking and continue to motivate my peers. Hopefully by the time I’m an adult, this problem will be over. I’ll always be an advocate for health whether it’s adults or kids.”
Photos courtesy of Charmaine Thomas