On first hearing, it sounds like a mistake. But it’s true. A school chef’s dish-pulled chicken- chard tacos with chile queso fresco and cilantro-lime sauce- prepared with locally-grown produce, won first place in a D.C. school chef competition this week.

Lauren Williams, a chef who prepares food for Chartwell-Thompson, the firm that provides meals to D.C. Public Schools, took top honors with the meal.

Williams award-winning dish, along with other entries in the competition, included produce grown in Thurgood Marshall Academy school garden.

The award and the competition was part of the District’s second annual Growing Healthy Schools Week Oct. 21-26, an effort by the D.C. Office of the State Superintendent to implement the spirit of the D.C. Healthy Schools Act’s mandate to improve what ‘s offered to the city’s school students and to use locally-grown elements to do it.

“The kick-off chef competition at Thurgood Marshall Academy demonstrated how well the District’s school gardens celebrate teaching and learning using hands-on experiences,” said State Superintendent of Education Jesús Aguirre.

“This is an important week for our schools and students as we continue to encourage children across the District to move from theory to the practice of healthy eating ,” he added.

At the awards ceremony at Thurgood Marshall Academy, a charter school, the city schools’ Division of Wellness and Nutrition Services announced the winners for the Healthy Schools Act Art and Essay Contest. The contest encouraged students to portray how their school encourages health and awareness through video, essay or drawing.

Awards were also presented to Watkins Elementary School for Best Sustained School Garden, and Mundo Verde Public Charter School received Best New School Garden award.

Throughout the week, local farmers, chefs, dietitians, and community-based organizations visited D.C. schools with presentations about connections between food, health, and the environment.

DC School Garden Week was launched in 2007 to celebrate school gardens throughout the District of Columbia. The Farm-to-School week was created three years later to provide opportunities for DC Schools to celebrate local, seasonal food in school meals, and engage students in the farm-to-table process.

The event was hosted by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) in partnership with the D.C. Farm to School Network, D.C. Greens, D.C. Schoolyard Greening, and Whole Foods Market.


Maria Adebola

Special to the AFRO