Published on November 1st, 2014 | by Millennium Magazine Staff


District Five teachers, staff showcase cooking skills in ‘Chopped’-style competition

Pictured: The Leaphart Elementary team of cafeteria manager Liz Tronetti (left), teacher Jennie Burns (middle) and fifth grader McKayla Johnson (right) claimed this year’s District Five ‘Chopped’ Champion title.

IRMO – What sort of meal could you create out of kale, fish sticks and dried cranberries? Students and staff at Lexington-Richland School District Five proved these ingredients can make a tasty and healthy dish as part of the district’s second annual ‘Chopped’ cooking competition.

The Oct. 29 event was held at the Center for Advanced Technical Studies as part of District Five’s Farm to Five grant to highlight the importance of providing fresh, healthy ingredients in school cafeterias. The Leaphart Elementary team of cafeteria manager Liz Tronetti, teacher Jennie Burns and fifth grader McKayla Johnson claimed this year’s title.

District Five Student Nutrition Director Todd Bedenbaugh said, “The goals were to have fun and showcase the cooking talent that we have in our schools. Kale and other fresh ingredients like the ones used in our ‘Chopped’ competition are being used in District Five cafeterias. The competition is a great way to spotlight the quality ingredients we serve our students and the creativity that is used to make great meals each school day.”

Four teams prepared a meal using pantry items and five ingredients that were undisclosed to contestants prior to the competition. Schools represented in this year’s contest included: H. E. Corley Elementary, Dutch Fork Elementary, Seven Oaks Elementary and Leaphart Elementary. As the winners, the Leaphart Elementary team members each received bags of collards, a t-shirt, and a Walmart gift card donated by Walter P. Rawls & Son. The team was also presented with a plaque, naming them 2014 District Five ‘Chopped’ Champions.

“When we won, I was just like … I can’t believe it. I’m so happy,” said Leaphart Elementary fifth grader McKayla Johnson.

Art teacher Jennie Burns added, “ It was hard to know what to put together and how to make it work. McKayla was a big help, and we can’t wait to go back to Leaphart and let everyone know that we won.”

Each team was given 35 minutes to create their meals and present it to a distinguished panel of judges that included: Center for Advanced Technical Studies culinary instructor Chef Jeff Urso, Walter P. Rawl & Son Director of Field Operations Charles Wingard, District Five Facilities Coordinator Scott Carlin and The State newspaper metro reporter Sarah Ellis. WACH Fox anchor Tyler Ryan served as host for the event.

District Five’s Farm to Five program is part of a $100,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture grant the district received last year to provide educational opportunities for students and teachers, bolster school gardening programs, and implement more local foods into district cafeterias.  In addition to the ‘Chopped’ competition, the district’s Farm to Five program has included summer training for cafeteria staff, teacher and staff field trips to local farms, and upgrades to several school gardens.

“The importance of using fresh ingredients and teaching our students about healthy food choices cannot be overstated,” Bedenbaugh said. “Through Farm to Five, we are able to hold events like ‘Chopped’ and ensure that student nutrition is a priority in District Five.”


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