Nutrition services staff, teachers and administrators at the Falls Church City (VA) Public Schools have collaborated on an educational program for seventh graders in the district that resulted in a cooking competition televised on the local cable channel. The Husky Chef Competition asks teams of students from Family and Consumer Sciences classes to develop and prepare dishes conforming to USDA school food guidelines and meeting school meal financial targets.
“We wanted to breathe some new life and create excitement about food again,” says Foodservice Operations Manager Niki Wisemiller in explaining the initiative’s purpose.
The curriculum at Falls Church has three quarters each school year of two classes apiece taking Family and Consumer Sciences on alternate days so that all seventh graders take it at some point. Each of those classes is broken into four teams who compete for their class championship so that there are two winning teams each session and six altogether at the end of the year.
The entrees prepared by each team must include a minimum of three USDA approved components such as meat/meat alternate, grain and fruit/vegetable. The dishes are then judged on taste, presentation and creativity with the winning teams awarded a pizza party and the opportunity to see their creation placed on the lunch menu on a day when parents and administrators were also invited to attend.
They actually go into the kitchen to help prepare the dish on that day, says Falls Church Foodservice Director Richard Kane. “It teaches them about a commercial kitchen and what it’s like to be cooking in the food industry,” he says.
The first competition, held late last year, was filmed by a local production crew and later broadcast on local channel FCC-TV so that the whole community could get a chance to see it.
The initiative won a Creative Excellence Award from the Virginia Dept. of Education
Here is one of the winning recipes...
CREAMY TOMATO BASIL SOUP
Yield: 4-6 servings
2 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable stock
2 cups canned stewed tomatoes
1/2 cup tomato paste
1/2 onion, chopped
1 tsp minced garlic
½ tsp regular paprika
1 tsp dried basil
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Preheat a sauce pan over medium high heat and add 1-2 tsp oil. Sauté onions until soft, about 5 minutes, then add the garlic and continue cooking 1-2 minutes more.
2. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil, reducing for 1-2 minutes, then stir in the tomatoes, paprika, salt and pepper and bring to a boil.
3. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir in basil, then remove from heat and puree in batches until smooth. Adjust seasoning as needed with salt and pepper. Serve warm as soup or sauce.