For the fourth year in a row, the James Beard Foundation is the official culinary partner of Cooking Up Change, a nationwide high school competition that invites students to improve school lunches. Administered by the Chicago-based Healthy Schools Campaign, the 2015 competition consisted of nine regional qualifiers, in which high-school teams designed and prepared meals within the real-life constraints of limited ingredient lists and tight prep times. Finalists from each city advanced to compete in the national competition in Washington, D.C. last week.
The teams' meals were judged on originality, taste, texture and appearance. After the votes were tallied, Debra Eschmeyer, executive director of Let's Move and senior policy advisor on nutrition to president Barack Obama, announced that Houston’s Westside High School students Jose A., Jalien N., and Briseida S., had won the competition. The team prepared a meal of Cowboy Cajun Chicken Lollipop, Twisted Texas Cabbage and Collard Greens, and Pineapple Tart. A student group from Orange County, California, finished second, while a Chicago team placed third.
Since its first contest in 2007, Cooking Up Change has helped to amplify the national conversation about the need for fresh, healthy lunches and strengthened nutrition standards in schools. There's still more work to do, so whom better to consult than the students themselves? The James Beard Foundation would like to congratulate all 2015 Cooking Up Change participants!