On Thursday, Jan. 30, nine teams from across the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) gathered at Los Angeles Trade Technical College (LATTC) to compete in the regional round of the Cooking up Change contest.
Launched in 2007 by the Healthy Schools Campaign, Cooking up Change is a culinary competition that allows students to engage in culinary arts by creating their own $1 school lunch using local food. Rochelle Davis, the founder and CEO of the Healthy Schools Campaign, believes that Cooking Up Change will influence students to pay more attention to their diet and possibly lower the obesity rates across the country.
“While we focus on a number of different issues, clearly one of the biggest issues facing young people today, and society as a whole, is the escalating rates of childhood obesity,” said Davis in an interview on the campaign’s website. “While schools were certainly not the cause of that problem, they’re very important institutions for helping to solve that problem.”
With limited ingredients, set criteria, and a time limit of 90 minutes, this contest seeks to engage students in “the broader community in the dialogue about critical changes needed in our nation’s school meal program.” In a group of two or more people, each group designed a recipe for the next school lunch with a rather complex set of guidelines: a main dish centered around a protein and two side dishes, one with a vegetable and the other with a fruit. The meals must meet certain standards for fat and calorie content.
After months of designing, perfecting, and re-perfecting the dish, the competitors met at the regional competition with the hope of winning the all-expense paid trip to Washington D.C., as well as serving their menu to the House of Representatives in Spring and at the LAUSD schools during the 2014-2015 school year. The winners were Jennifer Mendez and Kimberly Sanchez from Manual Arts High School, who cooked BBQ Chicken Flatbread, “Tropical C Burst,” and a Spicy Bean Dip.
Another team, from the Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies (LACES), created a Tlayuda – a Mexican pizza – with side dishes bean soup and pineapple salsa. Though they did not win the competition, team members Daniel Allen, Bryan Baek, and Felix Blanco told J Student Reporters that they had an invaluable experience.
“Sadly, we did not win the regional portion and therefore didn’t proceed to Washington D.C. but we definitely had the most fun out of all of the groups,” said senior Daniel Allen.
“Although our food will not be LAUSD’s next lunch item,” Allen continued, “we had a great time cooking together and have walked away from this experience with some great memories.”