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Bree Tracey/MEDILL

The Healthy Schools Campaign hosted a competition called "Cooking Up Change" to promote healthy lunches for public schools. High school students from 15 Chicago public schools participated in the event.

Cooking competition promotes healthy eating in Chicago schools

by Bree Tracey
Nov 03, 2009

Related Links

Healthy Schools Campaign

Participating Schools:

Chicago Vocational Career Academy

Clemente Community Academy High School

Corliss High School

Curie Metro High School

Dunbar Vocational Career Academy

Hyde Park Academy High School

Manley Career Academy High School

Marshall Metro High School

North-Grand High School

Orr Career Academy High School

Percy L. Julian High School

Prosser Career Academy

Simeon Career Academy High School

Richards Career Academy High School

Tilden Career Community High School

As a boy, Paris Brooks remembers how his grandparents owned a restaurant on the South Side of Chicago.

“Watching them cook and do things like that inspired me to cook,” he said.

Now a senior at Hyde Park Academy High School, Brooks’ inspiration has lead him to compete in the 2009 “Cooking up Change” competition last Thursday provided by the Healthy Schools Campaign, a nonprofit organization that promotes healthy school environments.

The competition included 15 Chicago public high schools. Each school was lead by a mentor who is also a culinary professional in the community. Meals were judged on nutrition and taste by a panel of 16 judges. The teams were challenged to create a healthy school lunch for only one dollar per meal.

Rochelle Davis, the founding executive director of the Healthy Schools Campaign, said school districts receive a little more than two dollars to serve lunch in schools. This includes food, labor, facilities and administrative costs. In urban areas like Chicago, the loss per meal is about a dollar.

This year’s competition was especially important for Davis since Congress is about to reauthorize the Child Nutrition Act, which happens every five years.

“It’s really part of our effort to raise public discussion about the need for more money for better food,” Davis said.

Davis said she will ask Congress to approve a dollar more per meal so it will be more affordable to cook healthy meals.

For students, the competition offers an experience that will help them further their culinary careers.

“We’re really hoping that the kids take away this as a career choice,” Davis said.
This year Tilden Career Community High School got first place in the school lunch awards by cooking chicken jambalaya with jalapeno cornbread and cucumber salad.

The reigning champs, Richards Career Academy, came in second with their meal of twice-baked shepherd’s pie, pub salad and a side of cinnamon bread pudding, and Chicago Vocational Career Academy came in third, cooking chicken salad, vegetable soup and apple crisp.

Last year’s winning team had its meal served to more than 40,000 public school students across the country and in the U.S. House of Representatives' cafeteria.

They also got to tour the White House and cook with White House Chef Sam Kass.

As the winners of this year’s competition, students from Tilden Career Community High School will get this same experience.

The competition also included awards for audience favorite and best cookie.

Asked what he did to prepare for the competition, Brooks replied, “Hard work, staying after school late--whatever I can do to become a better chef.”