High School Students Bring Healthy School Lunch to DC – and Cook with White House Chef Sam Kass

May 07, 2009

by Tara Kennon, HSC communications manager

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Stacey Vaeth Photography

“When we created this recipe, we never dreamed that we would be able to share it with so many people,” said Rafael Ruiz, a Chicago high school student whose team developed the winning school lunch in HSC’s Cooking up Change healthy cooking contest: a tasty meal of stuffed green peppers, carrot quesadillas, and fresh refrescante salad.

On Tuesday May 5, more than 40,000 students across the US ate the healthy lunch in their school cafeterias; Congressional leaders and their staffers enjoyed the meal in the House of Representatives cafeteria; and at the same time, Ruiz and his teammates Alvaro Aguilar, Marquice Kent, Mike Martinez, Emmanuel Sandoval and Jose Tena prepared the lunch with White House chef Sam Kass at an HSC briefing on the future of school food.

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Stacey Vaeth Photography

Kass, a longtime advocate for healthy food, worked side by side with the high school culinary students to prepare the refrescante fruit salsa salad while HSC founding executive director Rochelle Davis, CPS food service director Louise Esaian, Illinois State Board of Education chair Jesse Ruiz and high school student Rafael Ruiz addressed the need  for increased funding to make this type of healthy meal a daily reality in our nation’s schools.

Canvas_FloatMounts132-(Cust The student chefs presented Kass with a Cooking up Change chef jacket like the ones they wore to the event – along with jackets for the President and First Lady. (Kass signed the students’ chef jackets and asked them to all sign his.) Kass talked with the students about cooking, culinary careers, and healthy food; the day before, he took them on a tour of the White House kitchen and the new White House garden that he helped Michelle Obama plant.

The tasty lunch and talented student chefs brought some great media attention to the movement for healthy school food: The Washington Post and CNN posted stories, and the Obama Foodorama blog covered the event with great detail and lots of photos.

We’re thrilled with the excitement of this wonderful event and so proud of the student chefs whose work is an inspiration to everyone who cares about getting good food in schools. Now, we hope to bring the excitement of this event to advocacy for healthy school meals.

This message is especially important in the weeks and months ahead as Congress begins to consider the reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act, which essentially determines school food policy and resources.

More than 30 million children eat lunch at school every day and many kids who rely on the National School Lunch Program – those who are at risk of hunger, qualifying for free or reduced-price meals – are also facing skyrocketing rates of obesity and related diseases such as Type 2 diabetes.

Please join HSC in speaking up for a robust and adequately funded Child Nutrition Act. Click here to take action. 

And stay posted for more photos and video of the student chefs in DC!

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Stacey Vaeth Photography