Shawnee Mission Takes On Harvesters Lunch Challenge

2 girls in kitchen plating
Shawnee Mission School District

Students from the Culinary Arts & Hospitality Signature Program and Shawnee Mission Board of Education members faced off in the Harvesters Lunch Challenge.

The challenge is a hands-on, team-building program offered to help raise awareness about hunger and food insecurity. Teams compete against each other to prepare healthy meals on a budget using food one would find at a food pantry. The activity encourages creativity, problem solving and healthy eating.

Before the challenge started,  the teams attended an information session to help them learn more about hunger and food insecurity in Kansas.

“Food insecurity means you may have food today, but don’t know where your next meal will come from,” Valerie Nicholson-Watson, Harvesters president and CEO said. She gave examples of parents who give their own meals to their children or dilute ingredients to stretch the amount of food.

“The most cheap and most filling foods are usually the least nutritious and inexpensive,” she said.  “Healthier options are more costly and require time and preparation – luxuries these families don’t have.”

The teams completed menu planning and shopped in a temporary Harvesters grocery store for ingredients with an allowance of $1.50 per person.

“I was surprised at how little our money would buy especially having a healthy goal,” said Bailey Harwick, senior. “I definitely learned how privileged we are especially having everything at our fingertips.”

In the kitchen, team members prepared and plated their meals in 25 minutes.

On the blue team, Jack Steadham, a SM Northwest junior, took on a leadership role pulling the menu and team together, board member Patty Mach said.

“He encouraged us to taste the food as we prepped and noted we need more acid in our vinaigrette dressing,” Mach, said. “He really has a natural ability, he’s an artist.”

Steadham, said he dreams to own a Michelin star restaurant. “This was challenging because we are used to having a finer and wider spectrum of ingredients,” Steadham said.

At the end of lunch, the results were tied between the two teams who were evaluated on planning, shopping, collaborating as a team, following safety procedures and presenting. The tie-breaker was awarded to the team who spent the least amount of money. Having one less team member and therefore a smaller budget made it a win for the red team.