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
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Algerians Vote in Presidential Election

There were few media reports of protests and clashes around the country, but so far no significant violence More

Sharks More Evolved than Previously Thought

The discovery could “profoundly affect our understanding of evolutionary history” More

Pakistan Military Asked to Protect Polio Workers

Request comes as authorities say a Taliban ban on vaccinations in 2012 and deadly attacks on anti-polio teams have prevented thousands of children from getting inoculated 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.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid