A female chef smiles with a tray full of food.

Arizona Students Showcase Culinary Talents in Feeding the Future Cooking Competition


Pictured Above: Feeding the Future’s 2022 event winner showcasing her fish tacos with purple cabbage slaw, taco seasoned tater tots and paprika pineapple bits. (Photo Credit: Photo Fusion Studio)

In school cafeterias across the Phoenix metro, students are using their culinary skills to revolutionize school meals. Thanks to the nonprofit, Blue Watermelon Project, students participated in the fourth annual “Feeding the Future” cooking competition on February 26th. This event took place at the Farm at South Mountain and included ten groups of elementary to high school students competing to make the “best” school lunch, judged on presentation, taste, and creativity. The meal also needed to meet the nutrition requirements of the National School Lunch Program and adhere to the reimbursable meal rate of $1.50 per serving.

Young chefs stand together while waiting for feedback from the student judge.
Who better to taste test a school lunch than a student! (Photo Credit: Photo Fusion Studio)

A high school contestant plating his team’s taco dish for the judges
A high school contestant plating his dish for the judges. (Photo Credit: Photo Fusion Studio)

Even with these boundaries, students were able to get creative and let their skills shine as they presented an assortment of dishes including tacos, a native tepary bean stew, Thai lettuce wraps, and breakfast items. The dishes were then served to a group of judges who separately scored the elementary, middle and high school divisions. The top three high school chefs or teams were awarded scholarship checks up to $5,000, provided by the Sprouts Healthy Communities Foundation and other sponsors, while other category winners received chef’s kits, knife sets, and culinary supplies.

Elementary-aged chefs present their recipes to a panel of judges.
An elementary school team presents their dish to the panel of judges (Photo Credit: Photo Fusion Studio)

Children receive culinary prizes for their participation.
Chef Charleen Badman awards prizes to the young chefs (Photo Credit: Photo Fusion Studio)

The Feeding the Future event is hosted annually by Blue Watermelon Project, a nonprofit comprised of chefs, farmers and community food advocates, led by award-winning chef, Charleen Badman. Their mission is to teach kids the importance of growing their own food while providing nutrition education and healthy food access, and knowledge that will last a lifetime. To achieve this, Blue Watermelon Project reaches kids during the school day with garden lessons and culinary classes. The Sprouts Healthy Communities Foundation has proudly supported their programs since 2019 with more than $38,000 awarded in grants and scholarship funds. Through their Feeding the Future competition, and other hands-on learning opportunities, Blue Watermelon Project is growing a generation of talented young chefs and paving a healthier future for Arizona’s kids.

Competition winners proudly hold their jumbo checks.
Students proudly displaying their winning scholarship checks (Photo Credit: Photo Fusion Studio)