New Jersey Student Selected for National 4-H Award and Scholarship

By National 4-H Council October 04, 2021

Kristin Osika receives $5,000 scholarship and will serve as 4-H’s national youth spokesperson for Healthy Living

Chevy Chase, MD (October 4, 2021)
– In celebration of National 4-H Week, National 4-H Council today announced that Kristin Osika, 17, of Mendham, New Jersey, is the winner of the 2022 4-H Youth in Action Award for Healthy Living. Osika will be recognized nationally for her personal resilience and advocacy for those with allergies and medically necessary diets. Launched in 2010, the 4-H Youth in Action Awards honor 4-H’ers who have applied the knowledge gained in 4-H to create a lasting impact in their communities.

At the age of six, Osika was diagnosed with celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder which affects the small intestine. Her strict gluten-, dairy-, and egg-free diet made her feel like a burden and outsider in many social situations. In 4-H, she found a place where her diet was accommodated, and she learned to speak up for herself and others.

“Not only did 4-H give me confidence and leadership skills, but it also gave me the eye to see this as an issue in my community – that there is a place and a need for this work I’m doing to educate others” she says.

Osika’s work as a food-allergy advocate began with a community research project she conducted for a 4-H leadership program. Noticing the underused and limited options for those with dietary restrictions at food pantries and homeless shelters, Osika worked to raise and expand awareness for allergen-free options. When the COVID-19 pandemic shifted her efforts to virtual settings, she pursued educating her community through her blog, workshop series, and a cookbook titled Single Sweets. Simple enough for a beginner baker, Single Sweets features original dessert recipes that are single-serving, microwaveable, and free of the top eight food allergens. Through her workshops and recipes, Osika strives to educate the public about food allergies and dietary restrictions, how they impact quality of life, and the value of providing allergen-free options. Proceeds from the cookbook support food allergy research.

“My hope is for everyone to realize that accommodating allergies is not a burden,” Osika says. “Kids should know that dietary restrictions and food allergies are not unlike having a different hair color; there is nothing to be ashamed about. This is why education is so important. Children with allergies and dietary restrictions who need to bring their own dessert to birthday parties, for example, should feel empowered, not embarrassed.”

As a senior in high school, Osika hopes to pursue a career in healthcare research while continuing to advocate for food safety.

Osika will receive a $5,000 scholarship for higher education and will serve as an advocate and spokesperson for 4-H Healthy Living programming. She is joined by three other 2022 4-H Youth in Action Award Pillar Winners, Tashina Red Hawk of South Dakota (Agriculture), Brianna Attey Mouanjo of New York (Civic Engagement), and Dhruv Rebba of Illinois (STEM).

To learn more about the 4-H Youth in Action Awards and to view the other pillar winners from around the country, please visit: Here.