Dothan students cook up change

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DOTHAN, Ala. (WTVY) -- Dothan students gained a new appreciation for the people responsible for creating their school meals through a cooking competition.

Dothan Technology Center culinary arts students did so by cooking up change.

“Cooking Up Change is a national program in which children try to revise the child nutrition program lunch meals,” says Tara Hooks-Grant the culinary arts teacher at Dothan Technology Center.

That means their recipes could only include school lunch items.

“You’re just used to throwing in stuff like for taste like salt, pepper. You could not. You had to go by strict rules you had to use calories and you couldn't use over a certain amount of fat,” says culinary arts student Lauren Lewis.

Another rule was to keep the price low. Meals could only cost $1.40.

Students used the skills they learned in class but organizers say the real lesson is hidden in the contest.

“It would be great if we had a huge budget for food and we could go out and buy filet mignon but we can't. Hopefully, they see the challenges we face and trying to put together a healthy meal that they'll enjoy on a budget,” says Child Nutrition Program Director Tonya Grier.

For judges, it was a delicious decision.

Well, I don't have a favorite. They were all really good. The desserts were really good. I liked the chicken parmesan because it had a little spice to it,” says competition judge Smitty Grider.

But in the end, the chicken salad scored the highest.

The students’ hard work left their instructor in tears. She says they're all winners.

“I am just blown away. They are magic to me. I'm so fortunate to teach these kids -- they are just magic.

Now, the child nutrition program director is promising to get the chicken salad on the school menu, so classmates can try it.

The winning group's recipe will be submitted to the competition committee.

If it is approved they will advance to the state competition next month in Auburn.