New trick for healthy school lunches: Have students make them

BOARDMAN, Ohio (WKBN) – If given the choice between a cheeseburger and fries or a grilled chicken salad, most students are going to go with the burger.

Making food nutritious and tasty is a challenge for schools, which also have to meet regulations for school lunches. One Ohio school is taking a unique approach at getting kids to eat healthy: allowing them to be mini-chefs.

There are a lot of cooking shows on TV whipping up some mouth-watering dishes. Stadium Elementary in Boardman, Ohio is doing its own version of a cooking show, calling it “Tot Chef.” It’s for third and fourth graders. One of the goals is to get them excited about eating healthy and helping them make healthy decisions that will hopefully last them a lifetime. The cooks are soaking in as much as they can, even though some are only 8 years old.

“I like it ’cause I like the foods that we make, they’re pretty cool. I’ve never tried them before,” said Mackenzie, one of the students who competed in Tot Chef.

“It’s getting third and fourth graders together and teaching them how to make yummy after-school snacks that are healthy for them, something that they can prepare themselves,” Boardman Schools Food Service Supervisor Natalie Winkle said.

Monday, the little chefs made chicken sliders.

“They love having the hands-on experience of creating something, and I really think if they have the hands-on ability to create, they’re more likely to buy into eating it,” Winkle said.

So far, kids have made three-way grilled cheese and cucumber sandwiches. They’re encouraged to use toppings they normally wouldn’t.

“It’s amazing how much spinach they use and tomato they use that I never thought they would,” Winkle said.

School cafeterias have to come up with fun ways to get kids excited about lunch, all while meeting requirements of protein, whole grain and fresh fruits and veggies.

Monday, Glenwood Middle School did a burrito bar for the first time. It was a big hit, as students made 314 burritos in total. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others and keep the conversation on topic and civil. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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