Cooking up Change

Cooking up Change is a dynamic culinary competition that challenges high school students in cities across the nation to create healthy, appealing school meals. Winning teams compete in the national finals and present their meals to Congress!

Students Changing the Future of School Food

Cooking up Change challenges high school culinary students across the country to create a healthy and delicious school lunch that meets national nutrition standards on a tight budget. Using only ingredients and equipment commonly available for school food service, students create recipes that appeal to their peers and can easily be replicated on a large scale in real school kitchens.

Teams navigate the challenge with guidance from their culinary instructors, chef mentors and from dietitians who help them conduct nutritional analyses and adjust their recipes accordingly. While adults offer guidance, student teams develop their own recipes, drawing on their culinary arts studies, peer feedback and their own experiences.

Cooking up Change demands more than culinary knowledge: It challenges students to think critically, work together as a team and develop skills that translate to success far beyond the kitchen or the classroom.

After a series of local contests, teams from across the country gather in our nation’s capital to vie for the national championship and present their meals to Congress.

In this way, Cooking up Change is about elevating student voices in the national conversation about school food. These talented chefs show us that within the constraints schools face every day, it is possible to create healthy meals with a powerful appeal to students.

When so much of what we hear about school food focuses on challenges, these students remind us to focus on solutions and not waiver in our support for high nutrition standards. Through Cooking up Change, these students are helping lead the way to a bright and healthy future for school food.

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Sign up to receive news and resources focused on wellness and healthy school environments.

Contact

Sara Porter
Vice President of External Affairs

Learn more about our Cooking up Change Chicago program.

Local Contests

At the heart of Cooking up Change is a series of culinary contests across the country, with winners from each local competition advancing to the national finals in Washington, D.C. The 2015-16 Cooking up Change season features local contests in nine locations: Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Houston, Kentucky, Los Angeles, Orange County, St. Paul and Wichita.

Stay posted for updates as winners are determined in each local contest!


National Finals

The winning team from each local contest will travel to Washington, D.C. in June 2016 to compete in the Cooking up Change national finals and present their meals to Congress. Stay posted for updates!


Judging Criteria

Judges in each local contest and the national finals taste and evaluate meals based on a set of criteria that is shared with the student teams at the beginning of the contest. These criteria address factors including:

Originality
Rate the originality and creativity of the school meal.

Taste
Are the items seasoned correctly? Is there a balance between the main dish and the two side dishes? Is there a variety of textures? Does it taste good? Would you order it?

Appearance
Does it look appetizing? Is there a variety of natural colors? Is the tray neatly plated?

Presentation
Did the team give an articulate, well-planned presentation?

Judges base their evaluation on taste-size samples of the meal and a presentation by student chefs.


Judges: National Finals

The national judging panel includes chefs, school food leaders, advocates, policymakers students and many others. Thanks to these judges who face the difficult task of selecting a champion among the many excellent student-designed meals!

Stay Connected!

Sign up to receive news and resources focused on wellness and healthy school environments.

Contact

Sara Porter
Vice President of External Affairs

Learn more about our Cooking up Change National program.

Speaking Up to Support Progress for Healthy School Food

As policymakers debate the future of school food, the student chefs of Cooking up Change are demonstrating that school meals can be both healthy and appealing to young people. The students remind us to focus on solutions rather than the challenges of the school meal program and to not waiver in our support for high nutrition standards.

When students travel to Washington, D.C. for the Cooking up Change national finals, they also present their meals to Congress and are featured at a briefing on school food policy. Teams of students have met with Senators Richard Durbin, Debbie Stabenow and others to share their views on school food. In many cases, teams also share their meal and their message with local elected leaders; the Chicago team, for example, has met with Mayor Rahm Emanuel and presented to the Illinois State Board of Education.


In Students’ Words

“It’s been a lot of fun. I’ve enjoyed it a lot cause I like cooking and I like bringing my own stuff to the table. Just being able to create healthy foods while being flavorful is great.”
—Kim, student chef, Wichita

“I really love how all students and mentors and volunteers are trying to change the way kids eat a little at a time.”
—Shae, student chef, Orange County

“I learned that cooking healthy can be fun and inspirational.”
—Guillermo, student chef, Detroit

“Lunch may seem like small topic. . . but many children across the country depend on school lunch when they are hungry and this competition has shown me why it is such an important meal served in schools.”
—Tatyanna, student chef, Washington, D.C.


By the Numbers

Since Cooking up Change launched in 2007:

  • 17 cities have hosted Cooking up Change competitions
  • 1,600+ student chefs have participated
  • 7,000,000+ student-designed meals have been served in school cafeterias across the country

Building Skills, Gaining Powerful Life Experience

Cooking up Change helps students build valuable professional skills, from teamwork and problem-solving to leadership and public speaking.

It also provides a life experience that few students (or adults) experience: traveling to our nation’s capital to take part in a competition with peers from across the nation, then speaking with elected leaders about their experiences.

When students share their perspective at a briefing on Capitol Hill, in a meeting with their elected representative or with Congressional staffers who attend a post-contest reception, they develop a special and powerful understanding that their voice matters in shaping our nation’s policies.


Elevating Student Voices in the Media

During the 2014-2015 Cooking up Change season alone, more than 14 million people heard the students’ messages through traditional and social media. A few highlights include:

June 12, 2015 | Choices Magazine
Meet the Amazing Students Cooking Up Change in School Cafeterias!

June 10, 2015 | Detroit News
Detroit student chefs advance in national competition

June 9, 2015 | Washington Times
Cooking up Change competition puts students in charge of school lunches

June 9, 2015 | POLITICO
Students Cook for Senators

Stay Connected!

Sign up to receive news and resources focused on wellness and healthy school environments.

Contact

Sara Porter
Vice President of External Affairs

Learn more about our Cooking up Change National program.

National Sponsors

Official Culinary Partner

jamesbeard

 

Official Travel Partner

southwest

 

Silver Sponsor
American Federation of Teachers


 

National Honorary Chair Karen Duncan

We are thrilled that Karen Duncan is once again the Cooking up Change National Honorary Chair. As a national leader, former educator, mother of two, and wife of U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Karen is a powerful advocate and supporter of healthy school food for all students.

Stay Connected!

Sign up to receive news and resources focused on wellness and healthy school environments.

Contact

Sara Porter
Vice President of External Affairs

Learn more about our Cooking up Change National program.

Cooking up Change National Recipes + Resources

Access related recipes below, or go to our main Resource Center to access recipes across all of our program and policy areas.

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Curry Chicken

Cooking up Change Chicago 2011 recipe from Clemente Community High School

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Haitian Spice Chicken

Cooking up Change National 2015 recipe from Chicago's Marshall High School

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Tenacious Turkey Chili

Cooking up Change National 2013 recipe from Winston-Salem, North Carolina

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BBQ Chicken Tacos

Cooking up Change National 2013 recipe from Memphis, Tennessee

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Spinach and Carrot Slaw

Cooking up Change National 2014 recipe from Jacksonville, Florida

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Apple Cinnamon Delight

Cooking up Change National 2015 recipe from Memphis, Tennessee

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Exotic Island Pears

Cooking up Change National 2014 recipe from Memphis, Tennessee

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Tropical C Burst

Cooking up Change National 2014 recipe from Los Angeles, California

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Yummy Lo Mein

Cooking up Change National 2015 recipe from Washington, D.C.

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Cucumber Salad

Cooking up Change National 2013 recipe from Los Angeles, California

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Catfish Tacos with Pico de Gallo

Cooking up Change National 2013 recipe from Jacksonville, Florida

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Sweet Potato Fries

Cooking up Change National 2014 recipe from Little Rock, Arkansas

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Motherland Esquite

Cooking up Change National 2015 recipe from Orange County, California

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Tutti Fruity Parfait

Cooking up Change National 2015 recipe from Detroit, Michigan

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Lonestar Chicken Chili Sub

Cooking up Change National 2014 recipe from Houston, Texas

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Super Stewed Apples

Cooking up Change National 2014 recipe from Winston-Salem, North Carolina

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Elotes Washington

Cooking up Change National 2013 recipe from Chicago, Illinois

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Chicken Gyro with Tzatziki Sauce

Cooking up Change National 2015 recipe from Jacksonville, Florida

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Peach Crunch with Vanilla Drizzle

Cooking up Change National 2015 recipe from Wichita, Kansas

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Fruit Salad

Cooking up Change National 2014 recipe from Orlando, Florida

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Miyabi Japanese Onion Soup

Cooking up Change National 2015 recipe from Orlando, Florida

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Zesta Fiesta

Cooking up Change National 2014 recipe from Orange County, California

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Poached Pears

Cooking up Change National 2013 recipe from St. Louis, Missouri

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Jalapeno Infused Peach Crumble

Cooking up Change National 2013 recipe from Denver, Colorado

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Twisted Texas Cabbage and Collard Greens

Cooking up Change National 2015 recipe from Houston, Texas

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Buffalo Mac and Cheese

Cooking up Change National 2014 recipe from Wichita, Kansas

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Hot and Sweet Slaw

Cooking up Change National 2013 recipe from Orange County, California

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