Submitted by Russell Library on Thu, 02/23/2017

Local chefs will once again take on the School Lunch Challenge March 18, creating tasty dishes that meet USDA requirements 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 2017 event will offer 200 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 2017-2018 school year.   

Last year a team made up of family and consumer science teachers from the Clarke County School District was voted the overall winner by student judges. Led by Almeta Tuloss, program director for Seed Life Skills, a non-profit committed to revamping Family and Consumer Science curriculum, the team won over judges with a chicken and spinach pasta with lemon cream sauce alongside a mixed salad with orange vinaigrette. This recipe will debut on the CCSD School Lunch Menu in Spring 2017. The CCSD teachers will return to defend their title against new competitors Taqueria del Sol, Last Resort, and The Place.  

A variety of organizations connected to sustainable agriculture, community gardens, childhood nutrition and farm-to-school programs in the Athens area will host information tables at the event, offering hands-on activities for all ages. A display of historical documents and artifacts related to the history of the National School Lunch Program will also be on display, and two demonstration stations will host a rotation of chefs showcasing healthy recipes.   

The event is free and open to the public but attendance will be capped at 200 people. 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), mac and cheese (individual dry packs), and raisins (individual boxes). 

The 2016 School Lunch Challenge is sponsored by the Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, the Clarke County School District, the Athens-Clarke County Solid Waste DepartmentAthens Land TrustAthens Farm to SchoolUGA’s College of Family and Consumer Sciences and Department of Foods and NutritionThe Fresh MarketEarthfareSeed Life Skills, and Heirloom Café.     

To obtain tickets visit  

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

School Lunch Challenge website logo

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