Feeding the future: students change the game

When most people think of high school cafeteria food, they cringe for a second thinking, what really is that meat over there in those tacos? Why does that chicken sandwich not taste like chicken?

A tasty, healthy and inexpensive lunch has a lot more behind the scenes development than one may think.

Dietitians, district officials, and ones who oversee all food work diligently on developing an enjoyable cafeteria menu while at the same time meeting federal nutritional requirements.

However, students are now getting more involved in the school food as well as the district officials.

This fall, four culinary students competed in the Feeding the Future competition. This creative food developing competition required, plenty of kitchen hours, weeks of training, and, mostly, passion. Coming from the point of view of her students, culinary teacher, Angela Stutz, states how proud she is of the students and all the hard work they obtain.

The competition hosted six teams from around the Valley, in which two teams were from PHS. Senior Keeley Erickson and senior Madison Parry, won third place overall and partners senior Emma Jennings and senior Brett Borden won People’s Choice (judges favorite).

Erickson and Parry created a simple lunch dish to win over the judges. After hours of
hard work, the two chefs developed a vegetarian chili with cornbread to go along with it. The two students were aware of how many teens nowadays enjoy vegetarian meals, due to the opinions of their friends, Stutz explained, which inspired them to create a dish that would be delicious and healthy to all students.

With a price limit of only $1.40 per meal, the inside mechanics in determining the ingredients and recipe was tricky.

The students were “continually changing things, like a formula,” Stutz stated.

In order to prepare for the competition, the students worked weeks on end in preparing a tasty, nutritional dish that fell under the $1.40 price limit. Developed policies track the amount of protein, calories, carbohydrates, and more.

“So many grams of a protein, so many grams of a grain, different things that nutritionally have to add up for a student lunch [came into factor],” Stutz stated.

As a result, to come up with a suitable meal that students will enjoy, chefs need to be creative. Stutz said she is proud of her chefs and the dedication they had for this competition. 

The meals they created are also in the process of distribution to all students.

“We are working on getting those served in our cafeterias and nationally, they have taken my students recipes and they signed off permission for other school districts to use the recipes,” Stutz stated.

Other districts have already began to serve the culinary winners dishes in their lunchroom. The goal in the end is to have dishes created by the students, for the students.

However, Stutz stated, “Chandler’s very advanced in what type of things we can produce in our cafe,” and so it may result in more time.

If the meals in which the students created, started being sold in the lunchroom, then students, teachers, and friends have the opportunity to try it out.

“They can go to the cafeteria, and say, ‘Hey, my friend made that recipe,’ and they have some ownership to something they worked really hard on and they see it actually there and being served,” Stutz stated.

Jenny Bracamonte is the food service operations director for CUSD and said the vegetarian chili with cornbread produced by culinary students is on the way to being in our cafeteria.

Bracamonte explained, “We would like to do a lot more test tasting with all of you[students],” in order to give students an opportunity to have a larger say in the food that students consume.