Rethinking School Lunches

Looks what's coming to the cafeteria: healthy dishes created by student chefs.

Frida Angeles Galván and Skylar R. Peterson with culinary arts instructor Renee Randolph.


There may be hope for school lunches yet. Cinnamon whole-wheat scones, quinoa breakfast bars and zucchini boats were all on the menu at the 7th Annual Real Food for Kids Culinary Challenge, a competition in which student chefs create delicious, healthy meals within a budget. The prize? Winners will get their recipes into a local school cafeteria and onto students’ plates next fall.

This year’s contest, held March 2 at Hayfield Secondary School in Alexandria, drew teams from 15 schools throughout the DMV, including the Arlington Career Center and Kenmore Middle School. “We wanted to be authentic,” says Skylar R. Peterson, a Washington-Lee High School senior who, along with W-L junior Frida Angeles Galván, formed the Arlington Career Center team. Their tasting menu featured street tacos, a corn-and-pepper medley and minty mandarin oranges.

Judges included celebrity chefs Spike Mendelsohn and Cathal Armstrong; Kyra West, a student board member with Real Food for Kids and a senior at Justice High School in Falls Church; and Langley High School senior Shreya Papneja, founder and CEO of the Children’s Health Awareness Program in Schools (CHAPS), a student-led initiative targeting childhood obesity.

During the event, Mendelsohn said he was evaluating entries not only on their “deliciousness,” but also on out-of-the-box thinking and attention to current food trends. “I see a lot of hope in the younger generation,” he says. “They are so interested in how their food is grown and where it’s produced.”

In the end, a team from Takoma Park Middle School in Maryland won first place. But Peterson still has her eye on the top prize—a career as a chef. “Food makes people happy,” she says. And that’s rewarding.

Categories: Education