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Walnut Elementary enters USDA recipe challenge
Walnut cooking pic2
A Walnut Elementary School student serves up pumpkin pancakes to a classmate. - photo by MAEGAN MARTENS / The Journal

Michelle Obama created the Let’s Move! program in order to motivate America’s kids to make healthier eating choices. The U.S. Department of Agriculture then joined the First Lady’s campaign with their Recipes for Healthy Kids contest and Walnut Elementary has taken on this nutritious challenge with gusto.

 “This is to promote healthy eating in schools and get back to cooking from scratch,” said Shannon Perez, Turlock Unified School District food services employee.

As part of the challenge, Walnut Elementary School students tasted some homemade healthy recipes on Thursday to choose the best ones to send off to Washington, D.C. to enter their school into the contest.

A team of people including Santa Cruz Chef Janine Kiser, Walnut Elementary fourth grade teacher Della Cooper, Perez and a handful of students, got together to prepare recipes for three categories — whole grains, dark green and orange vegetables, and dry beans and peas.

The Walnut team cooked up pumpkin fettuccini, five bean turkey chili, rice balls with red kidney beans and pumpkin pancakes for the students to taste.

The entire student body tasted the different recipes and they loved it.

“It was this much good,” said Walnut kindergartner Jasmeet Manesh, as she stretched her arms out to demonstrate how good the food was. “The pumpkin fettuccini was my favorite. The noodles tasted good. It tasted like pasta.”

But kindergartner Annika Reich preferred the pumpkin pancakes.

“The pancakes were the best,” she said. “They tasted like pumpkins.”

The recipe that receives the most positive feedback will be sent off to Washington, D.C.

The recipe must be entered by Dec. 31 and will be judged by May 15, 2011. There will also be a public voting period from March 1, 2011 to May 15, 2011. Winners will be announced shortly after that.

Whether Walnut makes it to the finalist round or not, Perez is happy to show the students that there is more to school food than just the typical cafeteria fair.

“It lets the students have a voice and choose what they want to eat,” Perez said. “And it shows them that food doesn’t need to be boring, like the pumpkin pancakes with just a little sugar on top.”

To contact Maegan Martens, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.