At only the tender age of 23, Haile Thomas’s profile is shiny enough to make any established professional envious. Haile boasts a multitude of accolades, including nonprofit founder (The HAPPY Organization), public speaker, community organizer, cookbook author, Instagram Influencer, and the youngest person ever to graduate from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition.
Haile even met the former First Lady, Michelle Obama! All her achievements are thanks to pursuing her passion: food.
Haile’s Culinary Roots & Transforming Her Family’s Eating Habits
Haile Thomas, born in December 2000 to Jamaican immigrant parents, discovered she loved cooking at only the age of 5. Luckily, her mother nurtured this passion, and soon Haile turned into a health food advocate for the youth. Seeing her daughter passionate about something she was also into, Haile’s mother didn’t waste any time and took to teaching her some ropes in the kitchen. This foundational experience ignited a spark, which would be fanned into a passionate flame for healthy food and nutrition by her father’s diabetes diagnosis when she was 8 years old.
“Our family really took it upon ourselves to do some research and see if there were any alternative healing options,” she told The Vegetarian Times about her family’s approach to food. “And that’s really when I became fully became aware of food’s potential to heal or harm us.” She continued, “Learning about this incredible healing power of food and of plant foods specifically, really led us down this path of learning together as a family.”
The Birth of a Food Activist
Flabbergasted by just how transformative the food we eat can be and amazed that most kids lacked the slightest idea of what organic means, the young author decided to help raise awareness. She began the “Kids Can Cook” YouTube channel when she was 9 years old and would regularly make media appearances on food and nutrition-related topics. While at it, she realized she’d love to make a direct impact and began exploring ways to do so.
Meeting the First Lady and Establishing HAPPY
Impressed and inspired by First Lady Michelle Obama’s commitment to raising healthier children and her “Let’s Move” campaign, Haile continued her advocacy for healthier eating initiatives among the youth. It’s during one of these initiatives that she would meet Sam Kass, a former White House Chef and senior adviser on nutrition. One thing led to another, and in 2012, she was invited to attend a Kid’s State Dinnerat the White House, where she met the power family and created an award-winning entrée.
“Meeting former President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama was honestly one of the most surreal and best moments ever,” she shared with Glam Salad. “The former First Lady’s genuine concern for the well-being of children definitely helped to drive my efforts to do more.” Haile finally found a way to make a direct impact a year later. She established The HAPPY (Healthy Active Positive Purposeful Youth) Organization, which educates youth about healthy nutrition choices. She has since engaged over 35,000 kids.
Making the World a Better Place One Recipe at a Time
In addition to the above achievements, Haile Thomas’ impressive achievement list features partnering with Harlem Grown to offer urban farming education and serving on various nutrition-related youth advisor boards, including the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. launched Matcha Thomas a vegan restaurant based in New York. As she continues to cook up change one recipe at a time, her success story is proof of the impact any of us can have on the world by following our passions.