clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Photo: Students bring winning healthy meals to their peers

Will students be more likely to eat healthy cafeteria food if that food was designed by their fellow students?

That question was on the minds of a group of Bruce Randolph School juniors and seniors on Wednesday as they saw the award-winning school lunch they designed make its debut in cafeterias across Denver.

The students’ meal — a chicken panini wrap, coleslaw and a jalapeno-infused peach crumble — won the EatWell@School competition last November. On Wednesday, their meal was served across Denver Public Schools as well as at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science’s T-Rex cafe. If their dishes are rated highly enough by Denver students, they could join the district’s cafeteria menu on a regular basis.

The group of four students – Ivan Basillas, 17; Maria Armendariz, 18; Janeth Alfaro, 18, and Jennifer Esquibo, 18 – originally wanted to design a sandwich. “But we thought the bread was nasty, so we weren’t going to use that,” Esquibo said. “So we came up with the idea of using a tortilla instead.”

The students also wanted the meal to invoke their Hispanic heritage, so in addition to the tortilla wrap, they added taco seasoning to the chicken and used jalapenos to add a kick to the sweet peach dessert.

Chef Shellie Kark, who acted as a mentor during the program, said that the students’ creativity flourished under a long list of constraints placed on their meals by the competition. For example, the meals could cost no more than $1 each.

Moreover, Denver Public Schools has a roughly 50-page list of ingredients that can be used in school meals, but when that list was narrowed down to the healthy ingredients allowed in the competition, the students were left with a meager two-page list of nutritious foods that the students had to make appealing.

“How do you make cabbage taste good?” Kark said.”How do you make broccoli taste good?”

The answer, the students said, is to turn it into cole slaw with a dijon vinaigrette – a healthier option than mayonnaise, they emphasized.

The Bruce Randolph team will travel to Washington, D.C., next month to compete in a national healthy school foods competition. But they’re also hoping their dishes will be embraced by their peers in Denver.

“We put ourselves in their shoes,” Esquibo said. “If we wouldn’t eat it, then why would we serve it?”

You can see the students’ recipes and more photos of their meals here.

Help Chalkbeat raise $80k by Dec 31

Chalkbeat is a nonprofit newsroom filling a vital community need. We could not do this without you, and we need your support to keep going in 2022.

Connect with your community

Find upcoming Colorado events

Sign up for the newsletter Chalkbeat Colorado

Sign up for our newsletter.