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Hundreds of chefs gathered in Washington, D.C., Friday, June 4, to launch Chefs Move to Schools, a program designed to get healthy food into cafeterias.

Among their ranks was Charles Hudson, the research and development chef for Sunburst Trout Company in Haywood County.

The chefs, clad in their hats and uniforms, sat in the hot afternoon sun on the White House’s South Lawn as First Lady Michelle Obama spoke about the importance of children eating healthy.

“You all know how the ingredients we put in our bodies can affect the way we feel, the way we think, and how we grow,” Obama said in her speech to the chefs. “This is especially true when we’re talking about our nation’s kids.”

Earlier in the day, Hudson and the other chefs toured the White House garden where Hudson “oohed” and “aahed” about broccoli, yellow cauliflower, an abundance of fresh herbs and a beehive.

“I think that was the most beautiful broccoli I’ve ever seen in my life,” he said.

Hudson learned ways to get children excited about healthy food and expand on some ideas he’s started. He’d like to grow afterschool culinary clubs and partner middle-school students with elementary students.

He’s already cooked for students at Central Elementary School in Haywood County. At first, 90 percent of the kids turned their noses up at trout sausage and wouldn’t try it, he said. But after he gave the kids the chance to cook it themselves, almost all of them liked it.

“The biggest thing is to get them involved with the cooking process,” Hudson said. “It’s something to give them ownership, something they can take pride in.”

He suggests parents let their kids help cook, take their kids to a tailgate market to sample products, or pick produce with their families.

CEO of Sunburst Trout, Sally Eason, hired Hudson to be the farm’s development chef in 2005. His job is to help develop new products, and some of the most recent ideas include fish sticks called “Sunburst Sticks” and frozen dinners.

“It required a serious leap of faith but was a brilliant move,” Eason said. “We’re trying out new products every day.”

Sunburst produces trout burgers, cakes, encrusted fillets, sausage, trout dip, trout jerky and caviar.

While the trout is found on grocery store shelves and restaurant menus throughout the South, as well as in three Asheville retirement communities, Eason said she would like to expand to hospitals, college dining halls and school cafeterias.

“For the first time in my life, there is a possibility that aquaculture will become a viable business, and it’s because fish is so healthy, and people are realizing that,” Eason said.

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