SCOTTSDALE, AZ — Gone are the days of frozen or re-heated cafeteria food. Kids across the Valley are learning firsthand from experienced chefs in the community and they're using their lessons to reimagine the school lunch menu.
The Blue Watermelon Project is a nonprofit that has chefs in 30 schools throughout the Phoenix metro area.
Chef Charleen Badman, the owner of FnB Restaurant in Scottsdale, is the head of the program. Badman says she never imagined she'd be serving up food for students in schools, but 12 years ago she got a call from Ann Colleary Rodarte.
Rodarte helped create a robust garden for students at Echo Canyon School in Scottsdale, but she says they needed some help.
"We had these beautiful gardens, and we were planting all kinds of stuff and nobody was interested in eating them," said Rodarte.
She says they needed a real chef to spice things up and get kids excited about eating healthy. So that's where Badman came in.
The program pairs kids up with chef mentors to teach them how to create their own meals with what they've grown. Come January 22, the kids will use what they've learned to compete in "Feeding the Future," an event where they design their own nutritious meals that meet the National School Lunch Program requirements.
"I'm able to see how difficult that job is," Badman said. "I have a lot of leeway in my kitchen that somebody that is producing food for kids in a school does not have."
The winners will get scholarships and prizes. Badman says the goal is to also have the school make the winning dish in the cafeteria at least once.
The event raises money for their program and the public is welcome to attend and taste the dishes.