We’re Cooking up Change in D.C.!

June 06, 2016

A few lucky judges are about to taste the future of school food. Today, 10 teams of student chefs will compete for the Cooking up Change national title in Washington, D.C.

With delicious recipes like Cajun Chicken Lettuce Wrap, Moroccan Stuffed Zucchini and Low Country Chicken and Collards Pilau, these talented culinary students will battle it out in the kitchen and present to an esteemed panel of judges including national policymakers, nutrition experts and celebrity chefs.

Cooking up Change is a dynamic culinary competition that challenges student chefs to create healthy school meals that their peers enjoy and that meet the national nutrition standards for school food. But the competition is more than just creating delicious and healthy school meals. The contest also brings student voices front and center in the debate about school meal nutrition standards.

This year’s contest comes at a time when the Child Nutrition Act, the bill which authorizes the federal school lunch program—and determines its nutrition standards and reimbursement and rate—is pending before Congress. The last time Congress reauthorized this law, they put in sweeping changes to revamp the school meal program around sound nutrition. As you might expect, there are many competing opinions about how to move forward, with some hoping to roll back science-based nutrition standards.

“We have been holding this competition for several years now, but I really feel that this year’s contest is our most important ever,” says Rochelle Davis, Healthy Schools Campaign’s President and CEO. “It is essential that we stay the course and continue to offer students healthy school meals. And, to have the long term benefit of impacting their lifelong eating habits, it is important that these meals are both delicious and appealing to students.”

The messages of these talented young chefs here today are more important than ever. They show us that healthy school meals can be delicious, and strong nutritional standards can result in school meals that students will choose and enjoy. We’re so proud of these students chefs, and we know they’re about to cook up something amazing.

Meet the 2016 Cooking up Change finals competitors and their meals:

Chicago, Washington High School
Jalize, Marshawn, Natalie and Neidy
Cajun Chicken Lettuce Wrap, Roasted Corn Relish, Deconstructed Peach and Yogurt Pizza

Dallas, Wilmer Hutchins High School
Jeremy and Paloma
Chicken Parmesan Sandwich, Green Beans & Cherry Tomatoes and Banana Dip Bites

Detroit, Golightly Career and Technical Center
Jalen, Katelynn and Ray
Low Country Chicken and Collards Pilau, Country Coleslaw, Peanut Butter and Nana Stacker Parfait

Houston, Barbara Jordan High School
Lilian and Rocio
Chicken Philly Sandwich with Sautéed Onion, Peppers and Cheese; Cucumber and Onion Salad, Yogurt Parfait with a Graham Cracker Crust and Pineapples

Los Angeles, Santee Education Complex
David, Jennifer and Tochtli
Chicken Quesadilla, Healthy Slaw with Cumin-Lime Crema, Pineapple Downtown

Orange County, Calif., Valley High School
Daisy, Mariah and Rosa
Moroccan Stuffed Zucchini, Moroccan Salad, Spiced Pear Cups

Owensboro, Ken., Apollo High School
Abigail, Elizabeth and Rachel
Chicken Alfredo with Penne and Roasted Vegetables, Garden Salad, Mixed Fruit

Phoenix, Barry Goldwater High School
Alanja and Leslie
Taco Burritos, Sautéed Green Beans and Carrots, Peanut Butter and Banana Cup

St. Paul, Harding High School
Chinue, Kaylyn and Xia
Thai Peanut Chicken Lettuce Wraps, Cucumber Salad, Crispy Pineapple Bake

Wichita, Kan., South High School
Jessica and Nina
Barbecue Chicken Pizza Quesadilla, Steamed Vegetables with Blue Cheese Dressing, Frozen Strawberry Yogurt Bananas

Last but not least, we extend huge thanks to everyone who’s helped make this event possible—especially our sponsors: National School Nutrition Partner, Aramark; Official Culinary Partner, the James Beard Foundation; Official Travel Partner, Southwest Airlines; and Silver Sponsor, the American Federation of Teachers.