Lafayette Parish student gardeners engaged in a cooking competition last month using vegetables from their 4-H school gardens for a chance to have their creations featured on the school menu.
The team from Green T. Lindon Elementary School took first place for Cauliflower Crust Pizza, and the small pizzas will be featured in Lafayette Parish school cafeterias systemwide during October as part of the school system’s observation of National School Lunch Week and Farm to School Month.
L. Leo Judice took second with Chard Autumn Chili, and Charles Burke Elementary’s Ragin’ Asian and Cajun Special Lo Mein took third. Teams also placed in several different categories, with the Alice Boucher Elementary team winning recognition for most school garden ingredients.
Other winners included the L. Leo Judice team for most organized; Charles Burke for cleanest work station; Judice Middle School for outstanding teamwork; and Lindon for the most colorful dish.
The contest, called “On Cuisine du Jardin,” which is French for “We Cook from the Garden,” was held at the David Thibodaux STEM Magnet Academy and featured teams of three to four students.
The teams also included a teacher, community leader and a local chef in a competition similar to the “Chopped” reality TV cooking show. Lafayette Parish School Board members Mary Morrison, Britt Latiolais and Elroy Broussard each served as the elected official on different teams.
The program is a collaborative effort of LSU AgCenter Cooperative Extension Service, 4-H Youth Development staff, Master Gardeners, Lafayette Parish school system and Lafayette Consolidated Government. Annual sponsors include Lafayette Master Gardener Association, WOMAN’S Foundation Inc. and National 4-H Council Food Smart Families program sponsored by UnitedHealthcare.
As part of the program, students learn gardening skills, the nutritional benefits of eating fruits and vegetables, and lessons related to science, math and health. Students also keep a journal chronicling what they grow and the garden’s production.
“It’s fun because you get to have fresh vegetables. We get to eat our crops,” Madison Bourque, a sixth-grader from Judice Middle School, said in a news release about the competition.
Alice Boucher’s Garbanzo Mexican Quesadilla incorporated several ingredients from the school’s garden to earn the team the most school garden ingredients title.
“We grew our own cilantro, mint, lemons and lime,” said Charlee Von Aspern, an Alice Boucher third-grader.
The Hispanic dish worked into the class’ Spanish immersion curriculum.
Charlee’s dad, Charles Von Aspern, who has a food truck business, stepped up to the plate as the team’s celebrity chef and said he was impressed with students’ enthusiasm.
“That’s been the best part about it. They are really enjoying themselves,” he said in the news release.
The competitors have fun while they learn, said Charles Burke Elementary fourth-grade teacher Judy Morgan.
“The kids just light up when they do this. It’s almost like watching a choreographed dance.”