Today: Student-Designed School Lunch Served to 20,000+ Chicago High School Students

January 19, 2012 | Written By:

CVCA culinary students Ciara Lawton, Sheanice Dishmon, Kaliah Hunter, Diamonte Baugh, Tatiana Rice and Jerome Sims

When high school students in Chicago Public Schools (CPS) line up for lunch today, they may be surprised to learn the recipe for the lunch on their tray was created by chefs who are young students like themselves. In November, the team of culinary students from Chicago Vocational Career Academy won HSC’s flagship Cooking up Change healthy cooking contest, which challenges high school student chefs to create healthy, great-tasting school meals. Today, the meal those students designed will be served for lunch to more than 20,000 students in high scools throughout CPS.

Student chefs Diamonte Baugh, Sheanice Dishmon, Kaliah Hunter, Ciara Lawton, Tatiana Rice, and Jerome Sims created a meal of oven-fried chicken, leafy greens and cabbage with sweet potato salad to take top honors at the contest, where they competed against teams from 11 other Chicago high schools.

“I liked Cooking up Change because everyone is working together to find things we like to eat,” said student chef Kaliah Hunter of her experience.

The CVCA team used an ingredient that is new to CPS cafeterias this year: unprocessed chicken raised without antibiotics on Amish farms in Indiana. All student teams in Cooking up Change used frozen local produce procured through the CPS farm to school program. All meals in the contest met the cost and nutrition requirements for Chicago Public Schools meals — that is, meeting the gold standard of the HealthierUS School Challenge, a cornerstone of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move initiative, for about a dollar per meal — and used only ingredients available in school food service.

“Cooking up Change provides talented culinary students with an opportunity to transform how their peers, community, and families think about school food,” said Rochelle Davis, HSC president and CEO. “Their creativity reflects Chicago Public Schools’ history of school food innovation, including the recent move to include scratch-baked chicken in school lunches, a milestone in the district’s progress with school meals.”

Cooking up Change engages culinary students in Chicago Public Schools’ department of college and career preparation as well as the broader community in a dialogue about school food reform and the need for more resources for our nation’s school meal program.

The winners of the Chicago contest will compete in the national finals in Washington, D.C. in May 2012.  Student-designed lunches from the contest have been served in schools across the country as well as in the U.S. House of Representatives cafeteria. Recently, First Lady Michelle Obama met with and commended the national winners during a visit to Jacksonville, where she praised their efforts to promote healthy school food.  

“I am just so excited to see the kids cooking, the excitement in their faces, their motivation, and the light in their eyes. You could just tell, it made a big difference in their lives and what they’re going to accomplish in the future,” said CVCA principal Doug Mackin. “I’m just so proud to be here to see this miracle working within my kids. They are so deserving and they worked so hard.”

The Cooking up Change Chicago Healthy Cooking Contest is generously supported by a team of sponsors that includes Premier sponsor Chartwells-Thompson Hospitality, official travel partner Southwest Airlines and Hero sponsor Preferred Meal Systems, Inc.

For more information about Cooking up Change and to purchase tickets, please visit

CVCA team members accept their first-place award at Cooking up Change

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