Three Loudoun teams competed against more than 100 middle and high school students from five school districts across the National Capital Region March 2 for the opportunity to contribute a new, healthy option to their area’s school lunch menu during the Real Food for Kids 7th Annual Culinary Challenge.
Students from Academies of Loudoun, Blue Ridge Middle School and Harper Park Middle school all competed in the challenge.
Celebrity Chefs Spike Mendelsohn (Vim & Victor) and Cathal Armstrong (Kaliwa) led the lineup of judges to select the winning entry from among 24 teams.
“Winter Bowl," created by a student team from Takoma Park Middle School, was selected as the winning dish and will be featured on school menus across the region this fall, available to thousands of the participating students’ peers. It was the first time the team and their school district competed in the event.
Held at Hayfield Secondary School, this year’s event drew a record crowd of more than 500 audience members. Student recipes were vetted for compliance to USDA standards and strict per-meal budgets ahead of the competition where they were then judged on taste, presentation, and potential for student appeal. Ype Von Hengst, Silver Diner executive chef and former Chopped contestant, served as a student mentor during the competition.
“This event is about empowering our students to take initiative for change, and we believe the life skills they learn will not only positively influence the food in our school cafeterias, but also positively influence their future health,” says Rick Barnard, chairman of the board of Real Food for Kids.
Participating schools included Academies of Loudoun, Arlington Career Center, Blue Ridge Middle School, Chantilly Academy, Franklin Middle School, Glasgow Middle School, Harper Park Middle School, Herndon High School, Kenmore Middle School, Lanier Middle School, Parkside Middle School, Rocky Run Middle School, Sandburg Middle School, Takoma Park Middle School and West Potomac High School.