Nine teams of high school culinary students from across the country are headed to Washington, D.C., to compete in the Cooking up Change National Finals on Monday, June 8, at the U.S. Department of Education. 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. Each team qualified for the national finals by winning a local Cooking up Change competition in their hometown. After preparing and presenting their meals to a panel of esteemed judges—including national policymakers, nutrition experts and celebrity chefs—a national champion will be crowned.
Created in 2007 by Healthy Schools Campaign, Cooking up Change presents the future of school food with healthy, fun, locally inspired meals that appeal to kids. By complying with school nutrition standards and using only commonly available school food service ingredients and equipment, students create recipes that include no more than six steps so that their meals can be easily replicated on a large scale and in real school kitchens. Students have limited time to develop their recipes, test their creations and refine their ideas based on peer feedback and professional nutritional analysis.
Through creativity and hard work, Cooking up Change participants create healthy school meals that their peers love, and that can serve as a model for the future of school food.
“We’re incredibly impressed by and proud of the Cooking up Change National Finals qualifiers” said Healthy Schools Campaign President and CEO Rochelle Davis. “These students are doing much more than taking part in a cooking competition; they’re showing us the way toward solving the political debate over school food. While working within the constraints of the national nutrition standards, they’ve created healthy school meals that their peers love. By taking a page out of their cookbook, we can make healthy and delicious school meals a reality for all students.”
Each Cooking up Change student-designed meal complies with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) school nutrition standards for calories, fat and sodium content, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, including side dishes, which meet USDA Smart Snacks in Schools standards.
Through Cooking up Change, students not only learn about healthy cooking and the complexity of the National School Lunch Program, it’s also an opportunity to urge their national leaders to support student health and learning by maintaining a high bar for school food. It’s a message that’s particularly important this year as Congress moves to reauthorize the school nutrition standards that were recently adopted to address the nation’s childhood obesity crisis.
For more information about the Cooking up Change National Finals and to meet the teams and learn about their award-winning menus, go to cookingupchange.org.