News / Health

Student Chefs Cook Up Healthy Lunches

Young cooks challenged to produce nutritious tasty meals for 10,000

Known as the Renegade Lunch Lady, Chef Ann Cooper arranged the student chef competition.
Known as the Renegade Lunch Lady, Chef Ann Cooper arranged the student chef competition.

Multimedia

Audio
Shelley Schlender

The popular TV cooking competition, Iron Chef, often features world-renowned chefs who use expensive and exotic ingredients to create a one-of-a-kind meal for diners with discriminating taste.

At a recent Iron Chef contest in Colorado, the chefs were not famous, at least not yet. Their ingredients fit a low-cost budget and, instead of being one-of-a-kind, their recipes had to serve at least 10,000 hungry children and teens.

That's because the student cooks were taking part in the Iron Chef School Lunchroom competition.

Mouth-watering options

In the large Monarch High School kitchen in Louisville, Colorado, cooking teams from a half dozen high schools stirred fragrant soups and chopped bright green garnishes of cilantro and mint. Some squeezed lemon juice on slices of jicama, a crispy, sweet, edible root from Mexico.

The teens, who are studying catering, were competing in the Boulder Valley School District's Iron Chef Contest for a coveted honor: The winning team's recipes would be on next year's official school lunch menu, which serves over 10,000 students every day.

One student team made an Aztec soup, which is like a tortilla chicken soup.
One student team made an Aztec soup, which is like a tortilla chicken soup.

Boulder High School's entry featured savory beef and shredded cabbage.

"It's a stuffed bun with beef, cabbage and onion," said one Boulder student chef. "Convenient to eat, and very, very delicious."

Mouth-watering aromas rose from a rich, golden broth prepared by students from Broomfield High.

"We made Aztec soup, which is like a tortilla chicken soup," said a Broomfield student. "I think you're smelling the lime juice. And the tomato sauce mixed together."

Another team pulled a bubbling pizza loaded with colorful toppings out of a large oven.

"Broccoli, tomatoes and olives," said a student, listing some of the ingredients. "It's probably one of the best-tasting pizzas I've ever had."

Healthy lunches: an issue of social justice

The idea for this Iron Chef contest came from celebrated chef and author Ann Cooper, who works to improve her community's school lunches.

Known as the Renegade Lunch Lady, Cooper said that providing affordable, tasty, healthy food to children is a social justice issue.

"Hungry children can't think. Malnourished children can't learn," said Cooper. "And we need to make sure that every child, every day is fed a delicious, nutritious meal so they can be the best they can be."

To help all children be their best, the National School Lunch Program funds low-cost or free lunches for more than 30 million American school children who otherwise would have trouble paying for something to eat.

But the subsidy doesn't fully cover buying the ingredients, preparing the food and serving it. So, many schools stretch their budgets with low-cost, highly processed items, such as chicken nuggets, French fries, and sugary snacks.

Cooper warns that these cheaper items can fuel expensive health problems.

"The Centers for Disease Control has said, of the children born in the year 2000, one out of every three Caucasians and one out of every two African-Americans and Hispanics will have diabetes in their lifetime," she said.

Chef Ann Cooper, director of nutrition services for Boulder Valley Schools in Colorado, has removed sugar and fried foods from the lunches. She's also set up a full salad bar in each cafeteria.
Chef Ann Cooper, director of nutrition services for Boulder Valley Schools in Colorado, has removed sugar and fried foods from the lunches. She's also set up a full salad bar in each cafeteria.

Nutritious alternatives

People are less likely to develop diabetes if they eat whole, natural foods, including vegetables, instead of processed foods and sugary snacks.

So, as director of nutrition services for Boulder Valley Schools, Cooper has removed sugar and fried foods from the lunches. She's also set up a full salad bar in each cafeteria.

"There's basic salad green mix, and also Romaine lettuce, carrots, peppers, cherry tomatoes, celery, garbanzo beans, cottage cheese, there's chicken and or eggs."

These options cost 30 percent more than a lunch of chicken nuggets and tater tots. But Cooper says it's possible to serve healthier ingredients and keep a school's lunch budget healthy if enough students participate.

That was a goal of the Iron Chef contest: to get students excited about creating, and eating healthy school lunches that taste great.

With an eye on what kids like, Monarch High's Iron Chef teens whipped up a healthy rendition of a school lunch classic.

"We're making sloppy Joes with a jicama-apple coleslaw," explained a Monarch student. "It's really healthy. We're using lean beef and it's good, and it's on whole wheat buns."

A sloppy Joe and jicama apple salad make up the winning student chef entry in the Iron Chef School Lunchroom competition.
A sloppy Joe and jicama apple salad make up the winning student chef entry in the Iron Chef School Lunchroom competition.

The coleslaw had a bit of a kick, which was appreciated by the judges.

"Oh, my goodness, you all. This is delicious," said one judge. "What is it in there that kind of gives it a little spice?"

The kids told her it was chili powder and Dijon mustard.

Big winner

Chef Cooper was the one to announce the judges' final decision. The Monarch High School chefs took top honors for their Sloppy Joe and jicama apple salad.

"Everybody did a really great job. It was really nice," said Cooper. "We all enjoyed tasting everything. It was really wonderful."

The Monarch High students were excited their entry would soon be an official part of the school lunch menu.

"This seems like a great addition to the food to make it more appealing for the people that usually don't eat at the cafeteria, like myself," said one of the winning student chefs. "Maybe that, instead of going out for lunch and eating something unhealthy, maybe they can actually stay in school and eat something that's actually good for them, at a cheaper price."

Chef Ann Cooper plans more Iron Chef contests for the year up ahead. Her goal is to get more students to have fun by making and choosing healthier school lunches.

 

You May Like

UN Watchdog Urges Israel to Probe Possible Gaza War Crimes

More than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, were killed in a 51-day war in Gaza, along with 67 Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel More

New Kenyan 'Thin SIMs' Poised to Transform African Mobile Money

Equity's new technology is approved in African nation for one-year trial, though industry leader Safaricom says thin SIMs could lead to data theft and fraud More

Solar's Future Looks Brighter

New technology and dropping prices are contributing to a surge in solar power More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid