Valentine’s Day was especially sweet for 16 elementary school students who were picked to participate in the Kyrene district-wide finals of Future Chefs: Healthy Snack Challenge, a cooking competition designed to teach kids about following the road to healthier diets.
Third- and fourth-grade students from Kyrene elementary schools met at Aprende Middle School for the after-school event, hosted by Sodexo, Kyrene’s student nutrition provider.
“All the ingredients were supplied by Sodexo,” said Lynn Hansen, who is the company’s on-site general manager for the Kyrene School District. “We had our recipes and equipment; the little kids just had to show up.”
Kyrene elementary students submitted healthy snack recipes last month, and 16 winners were picked from 94 entries. The challenge: to prepare their recipes and present their final culinary creations to judges in an “Iron Chef”-style competition.
“This is really about the students’ well-being,” Hansen said. “Teaching kids about making healthy eating choices, and making it fun for them.”
Students in full chef gear went to work cooking in Aprende’s kitchen, with guidance by volunteers. Concoctions included fruit salad with granola, blueberry banana smoothies, peanut butter balls and sandwich skewers.
Tatiana Papadopoulos, a fourth grader at Las Brisas Elementary, brought her Greek heritage into the competition by making Tzatziki, a yogurt-based dip with cucumber and other spices.
“I had some (Tzatziki) when I was at my uncle’s house and really liked it,” she said. “I thought it would be nice because it’s something different.”
Anthony Colananni, a fourth-grade student at Kyrene de los Niños Elementary School, decided to mix things up with his recipe for a “lip-smackin’ turkey chili-cheese tortilla.”
“I like to cook a lot,” he said. “My dad and I thought of this recipe, and it was really good.”
In the end, Leah Kahldon, a student at Kyrene de la Estrella, won top honors in the competition with her “yummy fruit burritos.” Judges based their decision on originality, taste, presentation and the use of healthy ingredients.
Leah’s recipe will be submitted to a final, national competition, along with 35 students from other elementary school districts across the U.S. Five ultimately will be selected as winners.
“Overall, everyone was a winner today,” Hansen said.
All participating students went home with a backpack full of cooking supplies, a certificate of participation and an honorary medal.
Other students who were in the competition included Eric Edel, from Mariposa; Anthony Remmert, from Mirada; Zakir Hussain, from Cielo; Emily Eagle, from Norte; Annkia Austin, from Waggoner; and Elena Olivas, from Paloma.