Thinking Outside The Lunch Box At Project Lunch Tray

School lunches have come a long way from the days of mystery meat and tater tots passing as a nutritious lunch. These days, the emphasis is on fresh and healthy foods.

Thinking Outside the Lunch BoxCommunity Kitchen Pittsburgh’s Project Lunch Tray will host a two-hour competition for teams of student chefs to create a school lunch from scratch with the help of a chef mentor. The event, free and open to the public for tastings, takes place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at the Smallman Gallery in the Strip District. Education and Outreach Manager Tom Samilson said winners receive “a whole bunch of money for healthy food programming at their schools.”

The program launched last year as an educational outreach effort working with children in public, charter and private schools as well as the juvenile justice center. Their roster has already doubled to 15 schools, including 200 pint-sized participants. Samilson said they not only make healthy foods accessible to kids, but teach them how to prepare them. “Last year the winning school actually put together a deconstructed chicken Cordon Bleu and it was delicious,” Samilson said.

Samilson said schools need only one qualified faculty member to participate. Organizers pair their “junior chefs” with local chef mentors who task them with creating a delicious school lunch menu compliant with strict national standards for less than $2 a plate.

Founded three years ago, Community Kitchen Pittsburgh is a full, food service social enterprise. As a nonprofit, most of its income stems from its catering company, institutional meal prep and its retail line, CK Good to Go, distributed to local coffee shops. The Project Lunch Tray finals, sponsored by BNY Mellon Foundation of Southwestern PA, will take place Saturday, March 19 at the Farm to Table Conference.

Original article by Marcus Charleston appears on WESA.FM.

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