Remember cafeteria cheeseburger pizza squares glazed with orange cheese? School lunch can be a very bad thing. But with actual students on the case, that might change.

A team of Manual Arts High School students just won LAUSD's Cooking Up Change Competition, a contest challenging high school culinary students to craft healthful, economical school lunch menus. A team from Manual Arts beat out eight student teams from Carson High School, Dorsey High School, West Adams Preparatory and other area schools. The winning plate? BBQ Chicken Pizza, Spicy Bean Dip and something called a “Tropical C Burst.”

The winners – Jenifer Mendez and Kimberly K. Sanchez – shared their recipes a few days ago on KCAL9. They'll receive a free trip to D.C. to participate in the national competition set to go down June 4. There, Mendez and Sanchez will compete against teams from other cities, including Chicago and Houston.

Even if they can't conquer a nation of teenage cooks, Mendez and Sanchez will enjoy bragging rights and the satisfaction of knowing their concoctions have made it onto LAUSD's 2014-15 menu.
The students apparently were held to the same standards LAUSD applies to its food services programs – a budget of about $1 per meal and a host of nutritional guidelines.

This writer is a teacher who has seen firsthand the pleasure that students can get from food preparation. Many of those students have gone on to culinary school, but even as high schoolers they took immense pride in the food they would bring to school. Getting students to channel this passion into a practice that may actually better school lunch menus can empower as well as educate them.

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LA Weekly