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Chefs Move to Schools! How to Put on a Junior Chef Competition

Student culinary competitions are becoming a fun and popular learning tool utilized by many schools throughout the country to engage students in creating healthy, appealing meals. These events encourage students to eat more nutritious foods, as well as give students a voice about foods in schools, showcase school nutrition programs and stimulate interest in local agriculture. 

To simplify the planning process and assist schools that may be interested in hosting a student cooking competition, the Institute of Child Nutrition, in conjunction with the USDA Food and Nutrition Service, has developed the Chefs Move to Schools: Junior Chef Competition toolkit. Customizable based on the needs of the school, the toolkit includes how-to information as well as sample rules, forms, and guidelines for planning and pulling off a culinary competition at school.

Download a free version of the Chefs Move to Schools: Junior Chef Competition toolkit.

The Junior Chef Competition offers students an opportunity to collaborate with chefs, school nutrition professionals, and other adult mentors to create a delicious and appealing meal that complies with the nutrition standards and requirements of the National School Lunch Program. In addition to fostering teamwork, culinary competitions provide students with valuable experiences in the following areas:

  •  menu planning
  •  recipe development
  •  food preparation 
  •  marketing
  •  public presentation
  •  organization
  •  community involvement

Chefs and schools are working together to engage youth about food in a fun and appealing way. As a part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative, Chefs Move to Schools seeks to leverage the creativity and culinary expertise of chefs to help schools ensure that America’s youngest generation grows up healthy. 

Teams of students developed creative, appetizing and visually appealing school lunch entrees and side dishes while incorporating locally grown foods at the Harvest Challenge student cooking competition, sponsored by the Vernon County Farm to School Program in Wisconsin.

Chefs around the country are lending their creativity and skills to assist in schools’ efforts in the classroom and cafeteria.  They also provide culinary training for school nutrition staff, as well as food demonstrations and tastings. Planning a student cooking competition is yet another way chefs and schools can work together to get kids excited about healthy eating and school food.

Planning these cooking competitions just got easier. So help spread the word about this new Junior Chef Competition toolkit, and more importantly, make sure to download the template, assemble a team, and join in on the fun!

Chefs interested in volunteering with Chefs Move to Schools and partnering with schools in their area can register at Chefs Move to Schools.  Schools can also find a local chef volunteer using the chef locator tool.