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Real Food for Kids' Culinary Challenge
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Real Food for Kids' Culinary Challenge

11 teams of middle and high school students compete in school food competition.

The winner of the first place award in the culinary challenge went to Marshall Academy in Falls Church/McLean. Each student received a $200 scholarship.

The winner of the first place award in the culinary challenge went to Marshall Academy in Falls Church/McLean. Each student received a $200 scholarship. Photo by Steve Hibbard.

Eleven teams of middle and high school students competed in the fourth annual Real Food for Kids' Culinary Challenge on Saturday, March 12 at Robinson Secondary School. Students from six middle schools, four culinary academies, and one high school competed by preparing the most nutritious and delicious school snacks, breakfast and lunch menu items.

The event included six expert-led workshops on food writing, promotion and photography, family meal planning and school gardening. There was also a breakfast discussion that addressed the future of school food by Rodney Taylor, the new Food and Nutrition Services director (FNS) in Fairfax County and a pioneer in the farm-to-school movement, and Loudoun County's FNS director Dr. Becky Bays, who also served as judges.

It also included celebrity judges Marjorie Meek Bradley, a Top Chef finalist; Aviva Goldfarb of "Six O'Clock Scramble" books; chef Kate Sherwood of the Center for Science in the Public Interest; and Bonnie Benwick, deputy food editor of The Washington Post, who focused on "Food is Hot." Scoring for the students was broken down by 20 percent presentation; 40 percent taste; 30 percent adaptability to school lunches; and 10 percent team organization.

"Today is such an exciting event because it demonstrates our community commitment to providing healthy food to every child," said Megan McLaughlin, Braddock School Board representative. "I am so proud of the Real Food for Kids organization for their leadership and advocacy in this area. Their powerful voice has inspired our school system to make real and substantive improvements to our school meals."

"The whole point of it is to encourage kids to participate in healthier cooking and foods that are in school. We're trying to encourage kids to help change school food and to live a more active lifestyle," said Diana Nash, Real Food for Kids event coordinator.

"This year we decided to open it up for middle schoolers and high schoolers. I'm really impressed with the level of skill and preparation of the teams today," said Jenny Hein, executive director of Real Food for Kids.

An awards ceremony at the end included $200 scholarships, $50 gift cards to Sur La Table, a $500 raffle award to Williams-Sonoma, gift certificate to Earl's Kitchen & Bar for six people, cookbooks and a Veggetti Spiralizer, among other gifts. All participating students left with their own gift bags.