Ira B. Jones Elementary’s may have winning recipe

Asheville’s Ira B. Jones Elementary School may have a winner: The school’s “Tuscan smoked turkey and bean soup” concoction made the final round of the Recipes for Healthy Kids competition, U.S. Department of Agriculture officials announced today, March 9. But the next round includes a chance for the public to vote for their favorite recipe among a wide field of semifinalists.

At stake is a chance to take part in a national cook-off this summer with White House chefs (the contest is part of an initiative sponsored by first lady Michelle Obama, who challenged “school nutrition professionals, chefs, students and community members to develop creative, nutritious, and kid-approved recipes that schools can easily incorporate into National School Lunch Program menus.” [Full press release below]

In addition to public voting, the next round in the contest means an onsite judges visit by a USDA official, an American Culinary Federation chef and a school nutrition professional.

For more information — and to vote — visit the website,

Here’s the school’s notification from the USDA, and the press release from the USDA:

Dear Susan,

We are pleased to inform you that your submission to the Recipes for Healthy Kids Competition, Tuscan Smoked Turkey & Bean Soup, has been chosen as one of the top 5 semi-finalist recipes in the Dry Beans and Peas category. Your recipe will be posted on the Recipes for Healthy Kids Challenge website for public voting to determine a Popular Choice Award winner. Encourage your students and community to vote!

The next phase of the contest will occur between March and May 15, 2011. Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) staff and the recipe category judges will visit your school to meet the Recipe Competition team and taste Tuscan Smoked Turkey & Bean Soup prepared as part of your school’s lunch for that day. The judges will score your recipe on the following four criteria: taste and flavor profile; appeal to students; creativity and originality; and appearance and presentation. Judging teams will evaluate the recipes and choose the first and second place finalists for each recipe category. Your school will receive $1,000 to reimburse the cost of this recipe judging event. These monies will be deposited in your school’s nonprofit foodservice account and may only be used for allowable expenses under the account.

If your recipe is chosen as the First Place Finalist in your category, you will be invited to compete in a national cook-off. Representatives from your Recipes for Healthy Kids Team (chef, school nutrition professional, community representative, one student and student chaperone) will travel to the national cook-off. The First Place Finalists from the three categories will compete in the national cook-off to determine the Grand Prize winner.

A judging panel at the national cook-off event will evaluate each recipe and will select one of the three First Place Finalists as the Grand Prize winner. In the category that the Grand Prize Winner is taken from, the Second Place Finalist will be moved into the First Place Finalist slot and the next highest rated Semi-Finalist in that category will be moved into the Second Place Finalist slot.

In order to plan for the onsite judging event, you must e-mail the following information to as soon as possible, but no later than Tuesday, March 15, 2011:

Name and contact information for the Principal of the school that will participate in the onsite judging including school address, phone number, and E-mail address

Names and full contact information of the chef, school nutrition professional, and the community member
Confirmation that permission slips have been signed by parents of students on the Recipes for Healthy Kids Competition teams

A list of dates that would not be available for the onsite judging event, e.g. Spring Break, State testing weeks, etc. Actual date will also depend on judges’ availability.

We applaud your creativity and dedication to teamwork that went into making your recipe. The creation of kid-friendly, tasty recipes that incorporate whole grains, dark green and orange vegetables, dry beans and peas plays an essential role in helping us to reach the First Lady’s goal of ending childhood obesity within a generation. We wish you all the best as you compete for a Finalist spot in the Recipes for Healthy Kids Competition.

Your friends at the USDA Food and Nutrition Service

WASHINGTON, March 9, 2011 –Today, Agriculture Secretary Vilsack announced the recipes chosen to advance in First Lady Michelle Obama’s Recipes for Healthy Kids competition and encouraged the public to vote for their favorite recipe now through May 15, 2011. USDA and the First Lady launched the Recipes for Healthy Kids competition last September, challenging teams of school nutrition professionals, chefs, students, and community members to develop creative, nutritious, and kid-approved recipes that schools can easily incorporate into National School Lunch Program menus.

“Recipes for Healthy Kids draws on America’s culinary creativity and expertise to improve school meals with kid-inspired recipes,” said Agriculture Secretary Vilsack. “We know that to win the future, we have to ensure that we inspire innovation, raise graduation rates, and ultimately out-educate our global competitors, and we can only do that if our kids have access to nutritious meals and healthy lifestyles.”

In accordance with the Recipes for Healthy Kids competition rules and judging criteria, the Food Nutrition Service (FNS) and American Culinary Federation (ACF) teams have determined the top five recipes in each of the three competition categories from among the 340 recipes that were received by the submission deadline. Fifteen recipes were chosen to move forward in the competition from schools in 11 states, including Arizona, South Carolina, Florida, California, Massachusetts, Colorado, North Carolina, Minnesota, Ohio, New Mexico, and Connecticut. From among the entries submitted, five were selected in each of three categories: whole grains, dark green and orange vegetables, and dry beans and peas.

The semi-finalist winning recipes and schools for each category are:

Dry Beans and Peas
Tuscan Smoked Turkey & Bean Soup, Ira B. Jones Elementary School, Asheville, North Carolina
Lentils of the Southwest, Sweeney Elementary School, Santa Fe Public Schools, Santa Fe, New Mexico
Fiesta Wrap, Charter Oak International Academy, West Hartford Public Schools, West Hartford, Connecticut
Spanish Chickpea Stew, Skyline High School, Oakland Unified School District, Oakland, California
Confetti Soup, Burke Middle High School, Charleston County School District, Charleston, South Carolina

Whole Grains
Chic’ Penne, Harold S. Winograd K-8 School Mission, Greeley, Colorado
Mediterranean Quinoa Salad, Bellingham Public Schools, Bellingham, Massachusetts
Stir Fried Green Rice, Eggs, and Ham, Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Porcupine Sliders, Intermediate District 287, South Education Center Alternative, Richfield, Minnesota
Chicken Alfredo with a Twist, Kettering City School District, Kettering, Ohio

Dark Green and Orange Vegetables
Stir-Fry Fajita Chicken, Squash, and Corn, Kayenta Unified School District, Kayenta, Arizona
Crunchy Hawaiian Chicken Wrap, Mount Lebanon Elementary School, Pendleton, South Carolina
Roasted Fish Crispy Slaw Wrap, Liberty Middle School, Orange County Public Schools, Orlando, Florida
Central Valley Harvest Bake, Joshua Cowell Elementary School, Manteca, California
Tasty Tots, Bellingham Public Schools, Bellingham, Massachusetts

Schools that entered the top five recipes in each category will also be visited onsite by a judging team of a USDA official, an American Culinary Federation chef, and a school nutrition professional to help determine the three finalists (one from each category) that will participate in a national cook-off event this summer. The recipes will also be posted on the Recipes for Healthy Kids website for voting for the Popular Choice award, which will close May 15. For a complete list and to vote on your favorite recipe, visit the Recipes for Healthy Kids website at:

There will be a grand prize chosen by the judging panel as well as a Popular Choice winner based on public voting. The judges will also choose award winners for the top two recipes in each category. Winning teams will be invited to prepare their nutrition-packed meals alongside White House chefs. To recognize and share the culinary creativity nationwide, the top ten recipes in each category will be published in a Recipes for Healthy Kids Cookbook to share with students and families.

During National Nutrition Month in March, USDA encourages people to include a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and low-fat milk in their meals each day. These recommendations are included in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans that were recently released by USDA and HHS, which focuses on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits. Through its nutrition assistance programs, USDA also promotes access, resources and pathways for low-income Americans to lead a more healthful lifestyle.

USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service oversees the administration of 15 nutrition assistance programs, including the child nutrition programs. Improving child nutrition is also a focal point of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act that was signed in to law by President Obama in December 2010. This legislation authorizes USDA’s child nutrition programs, including the Summer Food Service Program and the National School Lunch Program, which serves nearly 32 million children each day. It will allow USDA, for the first time in over 30 years, the chance to make real reforms to the school lunch and breakfast programs by improving the critical nutrition and hunger safety net for millions of children. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act is the legislative centerpiece of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! Initiative. To learn more, visit


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About Margaret Williams
Editor Margaret Williams first wrote for Xpress in 1994. An Alabama native, she has lived in Western North Carolina since 1987 and completed her Masters of Liberal Arts & Sciences from UNC-Asheville in 2016. Follow me @mvwilliams

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