WATCH: Student chefs compete in renovated kitchen at Middletown High School

Tasty fare and hands-on learning were both served up last week at the annual Middletown schools “Future Chefs” cooking competition featuring elementary students facing off in the kitchen.

The event, which was held in the new cafeteria and kitchen of the recently renovated Middletown High School, saw a half-dozen students – five girls and one boy – compete through preparing Mexican dishes that were then judged by school board members and other district officials.

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Cheered on by family members, the curious and the hungry – winning and losing dishes were offered afterwards to those in attendance – the kids donned chef smocks, and amid Mexican decorations and music they showed off their culinary creations.

“I get to cook and have fun,” said Iasis Wilcher, whose entry was taco peppers.

“It’s a great reinforcing event,” said her mother Latisha Saunders.

The competition was put on by cafeteria-service provider Sodexo, with students competing nationwide from nearly 1,300 schools Sodexo serves.

With about one in three American children and teens considered overweight or obese, according to the American Heart Association, the goal is to get students thinking about healthy food choices while encouraging them to be creative in the kitchen.

Middletown school cafeterias serve approximately 3,500 breakfasts each school day morning to students whose families are eligible for federal, free and reduced-price school meals.

School officials said about 6,000 student lunches are served each day.

Middletown and other area school systems have seen in recent years an expansion of healthy food choices being offered to students while they are in schools.

Some districts such as Lakota Schools, have also expanded their lunch programs for students from low income families through summer break by using modified school buses to transport out hot meals and cold snacks to communities through out the Butler County district.

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This year’s winner took top prize after judges, which included Middletown Board of Education members Chris Urso and Cathie Mulligan, tasted Zoey Bunch’s pork tortilla soup.

The Miller Ridge Elementary student will next have her recipe submitted into the next level of the national Future Chefs’ competition, said Middletown Schools Spokeswoman Elizabeth Beadle.

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