Submitted by Jan Hebbard on Mon, 02/19/2018

Local chefs will once again take on the School Lunch Challenge March 24, creating tasty dishes that meet USDA School Lunch Challenge Logorequirements for the National School Lunch Program. Attendees will have a chance to sample the creations at the cooking competition from 12-1:30 p.m. in the cafeteria of Whitehead Road Elementary School.  

Building on increased interest in the National School Lunch Program, and inspired by the 2014 exhibition, Food, Power, Politics: The Story of School Lunch, the Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies and others partnered in 2015 to create this fun, educational event to engage the Athens community with the past, present, and future of school lunch. “Richard Russell co-sponsored the legislation which created the National School Lunch Program in 1946. We are glad to host this event, now an annual happening that draws attention to the NSLP today,” said organizer Jan Hebbard, outreach archivist at the Russell Library.  

The 2018 event will offer 250 free tickets to the general public. The centerpiece of this event is a cooking competition which invites participating teams, advised by nutritionists from the Clarke County School District (CCSD), to create dishes in accordance with USDA guidelines for the National School Lunch Program. A panel of student judges drawn from CCSD schools will vote to determine an overall winner. The winning team’s plate will be incorporated into the CCSD school lunch menu during the 2018-2019 school year.   

Last year local restaurant Last Resort Grill was voted the overall winner by student judges. Led by chef Larry Vivian, the team won over judges with a chicken parmesan sandwich paired with honey thyme glazed carrots. This recipe debuted on the CCSD School Lunch Menu in September 2017. The Last Resort team will return in 2018 to defend their title against new competitors Taziki’s Mediterranean Cafe, Dondero’s Kitchen, and the Foodbank of Northeast Georgia.  

The 2018 event will include cooking demonstrations from local chefs, focused on healthy snacks and meals that can be prepared by kids. Organizations connected to sustainable agriculture, community gardens, childhood nutrition, and farm to school programs in the Athens area will host information tables alongside a display of historical documents and artifacts related to the history of the National School Lunch Program. This year's event will also feature the Junior Food Fight, a live cooking competition in which two teams of high school students from the Athens Land Trust’s Young Urban Farmers program will compete to create dishes based on an assigned seasonal ingredient.  

The event is free and open to the public but attendance is limited. Tickets are available beginning Feb. 24 through the Eventbrite website. Attendees are encouraged to bring donation items to benefit the Food 2 Kids program operated by the Foodbank of Northeast Georgia. Requested items include jars of peanut butter, individual oatmeal packs, beef ravioli (pop top cans), chicken and rice (pop top cans), spaghettios with meatballs (pop top cans), mac and cheese (individual dry packs), and granola bars.   

The 2018 School Lunch Challenge is sponsored by the Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, the Clarke County School District, Mayfield Dairy Farms, the Athens-Clarke County Solid Waste Department, UGA’s College of Family and Consumer Sciences and Department of Foods and Nutrition, The Fresh Market, Seed Life Skills, Heirloom Café, Athens Land Trust, and Athens Farm to School.

To obtain tickets visit

For more information, contact Jan Hebbard at or (706) 542-5788.  

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