ANAHEIM, Calif. — A kids’ culinary team from La Habra High School in La Habra, Calif., will head to Washington, D.C., in June after placing first in the sixth-annual Orange County regional Cooking up Change competition April 20.
The competition, part of a national program founded by the Chicago-based Healthy Schools Campaign, is designed to create healthful school meals that students enjoy and actually can be served in school cafeterias.
Winning teams will take part in the Cooking up Change national finals at the U.S. Department of Education in Washington, D.C., on June 12.
This year, nine Orange County area high schools participated in the challenge, which was hosted by Kid Healthy, a Santa Ana, Calif.-based not-for-profit organization that focuses on improving health and wellness in low-income communities in Southern California, and Northgate Gonzalez Market.
Participants were required to work within the constraints of school foodservice parameters, including limited ingredients, tight budgets and limited steps to produce the meal, said Linda Luna-Franks, executive director of Kid Healthy.
Judging was conducted by a panel of culinary experts from a number of area companies and organizations.
Community members, civic officials and school administrators were able to sample the students’ creations, meet the cooks and learn about their menu inspirations during the April 20 event at Northgate’s headquarters.
Students from Valley High School in Santa Ana and California High School in Whittier, Calif., were second- and third-place winners, respectively. First-, second- and third-place teams received trophies, scholarships and prizes.
Northgate Gonzalez Market and Kid Healthy have partnered to present the event since the first Orange County competition in 2012.
Northgate participates as host and title sponsor because, “We truly are part of the community,” said Teresa Blanco, Northgate’s health and wellness manager.
Also, one of the chain’s main initiatives is health and wellness, she said.
“Having high school students around the community actually build healthy school lunches is perfect because they are going to encourage their family members and neighbors to eat healthier, and that’s our goal.”
Over the past five years, the event has raised more than $300,000 through sponsorships, ticket sales and silent auctions, Luna-Franks said.
Avocados from Mexico, Chiquita, Consolidated West Distributing Inc., Fruit from Chile, Melissa’s and Westlake Produce were among the event’s sponsors.