And the Winner of the Cooking up Change National Finals is…

June 10, 2014

Cooking up Change winner announcements

It’s official, Cooking up Change 2014 has a national winner. Drumroll please…. congratulations to Orange County! The team’s meal of Kickin' Taco, Zesta Fiesta Salad and Yummy Tummy Bananas took the top prize from our panel of prestigious judges yesterday.

It was a day to remember — one that involved a few special VIP appearances. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan wished students well right before they began to cook. He was accompanied by Let's Move! Executive Director Sam Kass — both emphasized the importance of high nutrition standards in student meals, and the connection between health and learning. 

For the Orange County’s Valley High School, this win marks the third in a row in the national competition. But the road to victory wasn’t always easy. When did things look most daunting?

“In the beginning,” team member Lily said, “we weren’t sure what we were making. The first things we tried didn’t meet the requirements.”

But in the end, the team won the day by persevering, with encouragement from the mentors in their lives.

“They were there to pick us up, all together,” said Lily.

“I just want to thank everyone who supported me,” said team member Josue.

Team member Gustavo noted that even though it was his teammates’ first year competing, they rose to the challenge.

Learn more about their journey to the contest. 

Meals were judged on their originality, taste, texture and appearance. Teams scored additional points for the quality of their presentation to the judging panel.

Although Orange County’s Valley High is the first-place winner, all student teams deserve huge congratulations for their hard work and dedication to creating a healthy school meal on a tight budget, facing the same constraints that school kitchens must overcome on a daily basis.

Additional winners:

Second place: Los Angeles, Jenifer and Kimberly, BBQ Chicken Pizza, Spicy Bean Dip and Tropical “C” Burst

Third place: Chicago, Elira, Lina, Shawnlaun and Mallory, Curry Chicken, Caribbean Garden Salad and “Plantains”

This year’s competition was especially important because healthier nutrition standards, implemented in 2010 with the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, are currently under fire by groups hoping to roll back some of the more stringent requirements. Yet 90 percent of schools are meeting healthier standards — and yesterday, we saw that student chefs can do the same.

This afternoon, students will speak at a congressional briefing, and on Wednesday they’ll meet with their legislators to advocate for healthy school food — because, as these students know, healthy kids learn better.