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For one group of York County elementary students, snack time is serious business.
Seventeen elementary school students from across the York County School Division participated in the second annual Sodexo Future Chefs competition, which tasked second- through fifth-grade students with creating healthy, delicious and nutritious snacks.
The contest was sponsored by Sodexo, the school division’s food services provider for the past two years, and was open to students across the division’s 10 elementary schools.
Kieran McIntosh, a second-grade student at Magruder Elementary School, claimed the top honor with “tasty textbooks.” Composed of cucumber, turkey, cheese and tortillas, McIntosh created mini-sandwiches shaped like textbooks, complete with subject titles written with food coloring markers.
“He really nailed it,” Knotts said.
With the victory, McIntosh advances on to the regional level of the competition, with a national round on the horizon.
Martene Whiting, a third-grade student at Mt. Vernon Elementary School, was named first runner-up. Whiting’s recipe for “upside-down pineapple nachos” turned the Tex-Mex classic into a healthy option, replacing meat and cheese with Grape Nuts cereal, fruit, honey and yogurt.
Jackson Glass, a fifth-grade student at Tabb Elementary School, was selected as the second runner-up. His submission, smoothie popsicles, featured bananas, strawberries, pineapple, peaches, kiwi, mango and yogurt blended and frozen for a tasty treat.
The inaugural contest asked students to create a new sandwich, but this year’s event featured a different theme — healthy snack recipes.
The task seems simple: Create a snack other students would eat. But YCSD food service director Michelle Knotts said the competition was no piece of cake.
Students had to craft their own recipes and record them on a recipe card. The recipes had to follow five criteria — they had to be original, creative, easy to make, nutritious and kid-friendly — and were awarded points based on their attention to the guidelines.
Recipes could receive bonus points by including certain ingredients, such as apples, baked chips, pineapple, yogurt and whole grain cereals.
Knotts said 146 recipes were submitted, and that’s when the work began for the adults. A panel of judges went through each recipe and selected two finalists from each elementary school.
“It was a hard, grueling task to pick the winners, because they were all so good,” she said.
The finalists were invited to participate in a “Top Chef”-style competition March 19. Seventeen of the selected finalists accepted the challenge.
With materials provided by Sodexo, the students had to prepare their original recipes for an all-star panel of celebrity judges: Superintendent Victor Shandor, Chief Operations Officer Carl James, Chief Academic Officer Stephanie Guy and CFO. Dennis Jarrett.
The students had to prepare four samples for the panel, who judged the snacks based on originality, ease of production, healthiness, kid appeal and presentation.
More than 100 people turned out to watch the competition, as the students worked to bring their recipes to life — and onto a plate.
After sampling the snacks, the judges selected their three top winners.
Knotts said the competition helps students become more familiar with healthy eating habits both in school and at home. Its effects could also last beyond the competition — YCSD is exploring compiling the recipes into a cookbook.
“We want children to recognize that eating healthy can be simple and fun to do,” Knotts said.