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Cottonwood-Oak Creek schools, Sodexo partner to teach culinary skills, healthy eating

Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District’s second Future Chef competition will be held from 2:30 p.m. until 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 27 in the cafeteria of Mountain View Preparatory, located at 2939 Del Rio Drive in Cottonwood. (VVN/Vyto Starinskas)

Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District’s second Future Chef competition will be held from 2:30 p.m. until 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 27 in the cafeteria of Mountain View Preparatory, located at 2939 Del Rio Drive in Cottonwood. (VVN/Vyto Starinskas)

COTTONWOOD - It may look like one of those cooking competition shows on television, but for six students at Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District, the second Future Chef competition is an opportunity to learn a few culinary skills, how to eat healthy - and a promise to take home a handy basket of cooking utensils.

"Last year, children made a healthy snack," said Bethany Campista, National School Lunch Program Coordinator for Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District. "This year, they will make a healthy breakfast."

Students were asked to submit their favorite healthy breakfast recipe for the competition, including a list of ingredients. Cheryl Weaver, Food Services Director of Sodexo, a quality of life services organization, selected the finalists.

"We're trying to get children to not only think about healthy eating, but we're also trying to promote their own sense of culinary art," Campista said.

For this year's competition, Weaver selected Cottonwood Elementary School fifth graders Macy Randall and Evan Flannery, Oak Creek School fourth graders Kiera (Alize) Robinson and William (Willie) Hunt, and Mountain View Preparatory's Carlos Lattanzi, fifth grade and Hope Calandra, third grade.

One of the five judges, Assistant Superintendent Steve King said he is excited about the competition because it could "bring more awareness to kids about what healthy food is."

"And it may spark creativity in their minds," he also said.

Though this is the district's second Future Chef competition, Sodexo has conducted the program for the past six years as a connection to First Lady Michelle Obama's 'Let's Move' initiative to end childhood obesity.

All meals prepared by the finalists, provided they adhere to Arizona Department of Education requirements, will become part of the school district's list of breakfasts and caterings, Campista said.

The young chefs will not be expected to do all of the work by themselves. Weaver will help the children each prepare 50 sampling portions for the judges and the invited guests.

All finalists will take home a substantial gift basket of cooking utensils, as well as a t-shirt, apron and chef's hat. The first place winner will also receive a Cuisinart caddy and utensils, Fit Bit, chopping board, stainless steel bowls, cook book, kitchen scale, measuring cups and a silicon oven mitt.

Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District's second Future Chef competition will be held from 2:30 p.m. until 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 27 in the cafeteria of Mountain View Preparatory, located at 2939 Del Rio Drive in Cottonwood.

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