This week, the Culinary Arts students at Roberto Clemente Community Academy set out to improve school lunches across CPS. They did this by participating in the tenth annual Cooking Up Change competition. Run by the Healthy Schools Campaign, Cooking Up Change (CUC) is a competition that pits fifteen Chicago Public Schools culinary programs against each other to come up with a healthy and tasty school lunch. The students are given a list of ingredients used by the school cafeterias, and are required to stay within a specified budget. Using only the ingredients on the list and adhering to the competition’s parameters, the team of six IB Juniors must conceptualize, create and prepare a tasty school lunch that meets all of the USDA nutritional requirements, and they must do it for less than $1.25 per meal. Even the cheapest kid’s meal at a fast food place is double that amount and sure doesn’t meet the nutrition requirements, though the Clemente Wildcats were not daunted by the challenge.
After a lot of trips to the drawing board, repeated tastings and mathematical calculations, this year’s team came up with a menu of South American roasted chicken with rice, spicy “refried” beans, and a pineapple, carrot and craisin salad. The team presented their meal to a panel of twenty-two judges from across the city, and then served tasting portions to over five hundred guests who paid for the opportunity to sample all of the creations, and support the improvement of healthy school lunches nationwide. While the Clemente menu seemed to be a fan favorite, with many guests coming back for seconds and thirds (one girl and her mother came back five times!), Clemente was not victorious that night. Not to be discouraged, the team has vowed to come back strong next year and win it all! We look forward to seeing a valiant return at Cooking Up Change.