Culinary students from three HISD high schools prepare to compete in Cooking Up Change 

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A group of Houston Independent School District students will be slicing and dicing their way to a winning recipe as they get ready to compete in Cooking Up Change at the Art Institute of Houston in April.

Cooking up Change is a culinary competition that challenges high school students to create healthy meals that meet the real-life nutritional and cost requirements of the national school meal program.

Seven teams from Northside, Milby, and Westside high schools will spend the next two months getting ready to go head to head on April 21, attempting to wow the judges and claim the winning dish. The winning HISD team will advance to the Cooking Up Change national finals in Washington, D.C. in June.  

“This is a great opportunity for all of our students. It gives them a chance to better understand the process and nutritional value behind the school lunch programs,” said Courtney Tucker, Milby High School culinary teacher and first-time participant in the competition.

Participating students must follow a rigorous recipe development process using a limited list of ingredients to create dishes that are low in calories, fat, sugar, and sodium. For HISD students, those requirements will be even more challenging, as the district has adopted more stringent nutritional requirements than what is mandated federally.

Adding to the technical requirements, the meals they create must also taste great and appeal to their peers — a delicate balance that school lunch programs across the nation must achieve.

The students’ meals will be judged on their originality, taste, texture, and appearance. Each dish must include a grain, meat or meat alternative, fruit, and vegetable.

This is the fourth year HISD students have participated in the competition.

Northside High School culinary teacher and four-time participant David Hill said he and his students are excited about the challenge.

“We are looking forward to seeing if we can do what the HISD Nutrition Services staff does on a daily basis,” Hill said.