For three years, the Ralston Public Schools’ Kids Can Cook competition has taught younger students a valuable lesson in making healthy snacks. This year, however, it has moved on to teaching valuable healthy life skills.
This year’s culinary competition included students from Ralston High School for the first time, having the students follow the USDA’s MyPlate nutritional guidelines.
“The focus is on healthy eating. It’s been very important in the schools,” said Judy Kyle, director of food services.
She said adding the high school students was a part of the original plan for the culinary arts competition. In its first year, the competition focused solely on fourth and fifth graders, adding Ralston Middle School students last year.
While elementary students made healthy snacks and middle schoolers made healthy breakfasts, the high school students were given more freedom.
“They could make whatever they wanted as long as they stayed with the MyPlate guidelines,” Kyle said.
Team Men Without Chef Hats was one of these teams, creating a dish that included chicken and rice, a fruit bowl, garden salad and yogurt parfait.
“I thought it looked good, and it was rather healthy,” said senior Gary Tow.
Tow, 17, along with Matt Kachek and Jacob Holler, both 18, all said they enjoyed taking part in the first ever high school competition.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for people to put their passion into competition,” Tow said.
Tow and Holler both take a food and nutrition course at RHS and enjoy cooking outside of the class. Kachek said he doesn’t take the course, but sometimes steps in at home to cook when he needs to. As for why they entered, the group said they thought it would be fun to participate.
“It was fun preparing our own meal,” Tow said.
“We had the freedom to do what we wanted with no overbearing rules,” added Kacheck.
However, the Men Without Chef Hats did have one regret:
“I just wish they would have started this sooner,” admitted Holler.
“I would have done this all four years,” said Tow.
Kyle said another goal of the competition for high school students was helping them develop life skills to put into practice outside of school.
While healthy eating is encouraged inside the school building, she said, it is important to have healthy cooking transfer to the home and student’s future.