Last week I attended a rollicking event on Chicago’s West Side. Healthy Schools Campaign’s Cooking Up Change event—a benefit and competition between students to create healthy and tasty school meals—was attended by over 600 enthusiastic high schoolers, community leaders, local government leaders and Chicagoans with an interest in improving school meals.
While the November 4th weather was decidedly cool and rainy, the Cooking Up Change’s venue, a West Side former warehouse, was hot! Event co-chair Christie Vilsack, USDA Secretary Vilsack’s wife, judged student entrées while USDA Food and Nutrition Service Deputy Administrator Audrey Rowe mingled with students, chefs and community leaders to learn about how Chicago is improving the taste and nutrition of school meals.
Early in the afternoon, hours before the official event began, Chicago Public Schools were teamed with local chefs who worked with students to create tasty and nutritious meals that follow accepted guidelines, including nutrition, cost and ease of preparation. After tasty and nutritious school meals were completed, teams submitted their creations to a panel of judges, including Mrs. Vilsack, and then offered samples of their meals to event attendees.
This annual event promotes healthy competition between students, awareness of good nutrition, the significance of the currently pending Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act, and the importance of meals having great taste. After all, a meal can be chock full of good nutrition, but if it doesn’t taste good, it’s not likely to be eaten. And most attendees agreed that this year’s event yielded some of the best meals yet.
So who and what won the competition’s 2010 healthy school lunch award?
After third and second place winning teams were announced to thunderous applause, the 2010 winning team and meal were announced to raucous cheers. Richards Academy’s Afro-Caribe Plancha, Soup of Sunshine, and Caribbean Citrus Crunch Relish took top honors—which nearly brought down the house.
In addition to having their meal served at Chicago schools, winning team members Gerardo Garcia, Ruby Gutierrez, Claudia Ramirez, Lidia Sanchez will travel to Washington DC for an event at USDA—and to see their winning meal served at the House of Representatives cafeteria.
Congratulations to all the winning team members and to Healthy Schools Campaign for another successful event. And for all of my friends in DC, get ready for some talented and motivated chefs-in-training and some tasty, nutritious meals—headed your way!