Cooking up Change Online Contest: Meet the Neptune, NJ Team!

March 29, 2011

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Students from Neptune School District work on submitting their Cooking up Change entry.

In May, Cooking up Change will head to Washington, D.C. where the winning teams from Chicago, Denver, Jacksonville, St. Louis, and Winston-Salem will present their first place meals to a panel of judges for the Cooking up Change National Healthy Cooking Competition. Competing alongside those five teams will be one team of finalists from the online portion of Cooking up Change.

One team of hopefuls comes from the Neptune School District in New Jersey. The chef for the Neptune School District, Lyonnel Eugene, has been working very closely with the team there and was able to give some insight into what team members have been doing to prepare for their competition. Eugene worked with the district home economics teacher to select the team, develop a timeline, and provide ingredients and nutritional information to help the team get started.

Participants in Cooking up Change are challenged to create a healthy and delicious school lunch that meets nutritional guidelines and stays within the tight limits on budget and ingredients.

“The students came up with their own ideas. We had so many students interested, we held a tryout by having the students create a dish within the guidelines. We had a few teachers help judge and we chose the best three. So we created a contest within the contest. The word went out from last year. Next year I believe it will be even more,” said Eugene.

Ultimately, the dish that the team chose to work with came from a student who had experience working in a restaurant. Through that experience, she was able to develop ideas for how to improve the food her peers were eating.

“We sampled it [the student's dish] with their peers and they accepted it, so it was a go. After that, we just needed to see if the numbers for the nutritional facts would meet the guideline. . . . The feedback from their peers inspired them and also gave them a lot of confidence,” said Eugene.

Once they had their concept in place, the students began working diligently on perfecting the recipes.

“The students definitely took the initiative to complete the project. They worked before, after school and even lunchtime. They sacrificed and dedicated their free time. They are bright, mature individuals. I am very proud of them,” said Eugene.

With all their hard work, they learned some valuable lessons about healthy food that they have now passed on to their peers — and have already had an impact on the school food served in their district.

“The students now realize cooking healthy food can be fun. They impress themselves and their peers,” said Eugene. “I was so impressed that I decided to put their Santa Fe Calzone on the high school menu. It has been a huge hit since.”

The winners of the online portion of the Cooking up Change healthy cooking contest will be announced by April 15, 2011. Check back for updates on Neptune and the other impressive teams!

Plus! Click here to read about last year's winning team from Cooking up Change National Healthy Cooking Contest!