LAUSD students participate in 'Cooking Up Change' competition

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Students with the Los Angeles Unified School District participate in the 'Cooking Up Change' competition.

It's hard for many people to get a meal on the table, but imagine being a teenager who has spent little or no time in the kitchen. Like senior Martin Avila who's been cooking for just three weeks.

"I learned one more thing. It's a life skill for me," said Avila.

He, along with junior Ramon Perez and captain Diana Delaguila, are part of Polytech High School's team participating in the "Cooking Up Change" competition with their chicken Diana, garlic steamed broccoli and vanilla apple parfait menu.

Seven LAUSD schools fired up the ovens Friday in hopes of competing for a spot at the national competition held in Washington D.C.

"To get an idea of what's involved in creating dishes and recipes for the meal program," said Timikel Sharpe, Co-Director of LAUSD Food Services.

Chef Bob Higgins has been an instructor at LAUSD for 16 years. He's impressed that the students can adapt to rigid rules.

"The restrictions have gotten even tighter. The caloric intake, the sodium, pricing," explained Higgins.

Other restrictions include regulations on sugar, saturated fat and grains. At least one ingredient must be locally grown.

Students must make one main dish, one fruit dish, one veggie dish and no more than 10 ingredients can be used and there has to be six steps or less in the preparation.

Also items must come from ingredients LAUSD uses in the food program.

"And to still make the food tasty and affordable, it's quite the job," said Higgins.

And to top it off, the meal must cost $1.14 or less per person. Delaguila loves the challenge that cooking brings.

"You never know what you're going to end up with, with all the different spices you can make your food with," said Delaguila.
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