Last year, Community Kitchen Pittsburgh involved 30 middle- and high schoolers from seven schools in its inaugural Project Lunch Tray. This year, says Community Kitchen Program Director Tom Samilson, the program to help kids create their own “healthy, delicious and kid-friendly school-lunch recipes” includes 15 schools and 150 students.
The teams, from public, private and charter schools, compete Sat., March 19, in the contest’s second and final round, as part of the Farm to Table Conference, at Downtown’s David L. Lawrence Convention Center. Meals — including round-one winner Sterrett Classical Academy’s platter featuring roasted chicken breast with a sweet-and-sour grape sauce — will be judged on cost, healthiness, and scalability for potential use in actual cafeterias. A public tasting includes the students, their instructors and their celebrity-chef mentors.
Those mentors — including both local lights like Root 174’s Keith Fuller and even international culinary star Daniel Giusti, based in Washington, D.C. — helped the kids finalize their recipes. But most of the guidance was lent by staff from Community Kitchen (a mission-based food-service company) and volunteers like Roxann Martini, an ESL teacher who leads the weekly cooking club that Project Lunch Tray spawned at Arsenal Middle School. “I think it’s a wonderful program,” she says.
Project Lunch Tray is sponsored by the BNY Mellon Foundation of Southwestern Pennsylvania. Whether the meals are ever adopted by schools is secondary, says Samilson: “The important thing is to celebrate what’s possible.”