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Cooking Up Change

On Monday night, I was fortunate to attend an event called Cooking up Change.

Cooking Up Change is presented by the Healthy Schools Campaign (HSC) as a way to put student voices front and center in the national policy discussion about healthy school meals. Navigating the complex maze of school meal nutrition and regulatory requirements, not to mention sourcing and preparation issues, students must create recipes that include no more than six steps so that they can be seamlessly replicated on a large scale in actual school kitchens.

The competition highlights the challenges of serving healthy school meals. As stated on HSC’s website: “The unique strength of Cooking Up Change comes from its power to elevate a meal and a message created by students so that it reaches their peers nationwide and the elected leaders whose decisions about school food policy affects students’ health so directly.”

Eight teams competed in Monday’s finals. Each team must have won first place in their local Cooking Up Change competition. Students have a limited time to develop, test and refine their ideas and recipes based on nutritional requirements and peer feedback. The cities of Chicago, Denver, Jacksonville, Los Angeles, Memphis, St. Louis, Winston-Salem and Orange County, CA were represented.

Each team, when asked, proudly and adeptly explained the process they went through to come up with their recipes and how they made adjustments along the way.

st louis
William Viney, Aretha Brown and Clarese Mathews of St. Louis stand proudly by their poached pears

I’ll tell you what: The food was awesome. Tenacious Turkey Chili, Catfish Tacos with Pico de Gallo, Cucumber Salad, BBQ Chicken Tacos, Elotes (corn) Washington, Hot and Sweet Slaw, Poached Pears and Jalapeno-infused Peach Crumble. All healthy. All easy to make. All delicious.

The official Grand Prize Winner was the team from Orange County, CA. Their recipe for Hot and Sweet Slaw is the perfect accompaniment to any summer barbeque. In my book, everyone was a winner last night. Students have an amazing opportunity, through this initiative, to affect the dialogue on healthy school meals and truly transform the future of school food. We need to listen.

Orange County, CA Cooking Up Change 2013 Grand Prize Winner
Hot and Sweet Slaw
Chefs: Cesar Amezcua, Cecilia Magana and Carlos Ortiz

Prep Time: 20 min.
Total Time: 35 min.
Serves: 6

3 cups red cabbage, shredded
3 cups carrots, shredded
1/3 cup frozen corn
1 ½ cups jalapeño pepper, julienne sliced
1 ½ cups green apple, julienne sliced
¾ cup orange juice
¼ cup sugar
⅓ cup low fat mayonnaise

Place shredded cabbage and carrots in a large bowl; set aside.
Roast corn in a pan over medium heat until slightly browned. Add roasted corn to cabbage mixture.
Add jalapeño peppers and apple to cabbage mixture.
In a separate bowl, combine orange juice, sugar and mayonnaise. Whisk until well combined.
Pour dressing over vegetables. Toss until well coated. Chill before serving.

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