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

Video Snowstorm Sweeps Northeastern US

'This is nothing like we feared it would be,' New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says; he had warned storm could be one of worst in city history More

Millions of Displaced Nigerians Struggle With Daily Existence

Government acknowledges over a million people displaced in 2014 due to fight against Boko Haram insurgency More

Facebook: Internal Error to Blame for Outages

Temporary outage appeared to spill over and temporarily slow or block traffic to other major Internet sites 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.
Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visiti
X
Aru Pande
January 26, 2015 9:33 PM
U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video US, EU Threaten New Russia Sanctions Over Ukraine

U.S. President Barack Obama has blamed Russia for an attack by Ukrainian separatists that left dozens dead in the port of Mariupol and cast further doubt on the viability of last year’s cease-fire with the Kyiv government. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Kerry Warns Against Violence in Nigeria Election

US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Nigeria Sunday in a show of the level of concern within the U.S. and the international community over next month’s presidential election. Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Saudi, Yemen Developments Are Sudden Complications for Obama

The death of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and the collapse of Yemen’s government have cast further uncertainty on U.S. efforts to fight militants in the Middle East and also contain Iran’s influence in the region. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports on the new complications facing the Obama administration and its Middle East policy.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid