DPS students participate in healthy, tasty competition

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DENVER -- It's a healthy challenge in more ways than one. A group of students at Denver Public Schools are competing in a cooking competition, all in the name of healthy living.

After finishing classes at KIPP Denver Collegiate High School, a group of students have been volunteering their time to take a crash course that doubles as a culinary challenge.

"I'm cutting peppers because we're going to make Asian chicken," said Gabriela Maldonado, a junior at KIPP.

Maldonado and her classmates are taking part in the EatWell @ School Cooking Competition, a 9-week course culminating in a cook-off between schools.

The competition is sponsored by LiveWell Colorado, but it's taught by volunteer chefs, who are students at Johnson and Wales University.

"I think it's important to teach students the basics of food and nutrition because it's such a basic skill to have," said Dalen Snodeerly, one of the chef-instructors who is studying nutrition and the culinary arts.

The team from KIPP will be competing against two other DPS schools during a cook-off in November. There is one catch, they have to follow the federal school lunch guidelines.

"We want them to be able to show people that a healthy school meal can be delicious and something that their peers would like to eat," said Becky Grupe with LiveWell Colorado.

That means the cost of their ingredients can't cost more than an average of a dollar per student. The meal must also meet the government's new strict nutritional guidelines.

Despite the challenges, the students say they're learning what it takes.

"I knew how to cook, but I think I'm learning more how to eat healtier," said Xitlaly Contreras, a junior at KIPP.

And judging by their early assignments, they are finding out that healthy cooking can taste good too.

"It's juicy. It's like a harmony," Contreras said. "To be honest it was awesome, amazing, delicious."

The cook-off will be held on November 22nd. Each team will have 45 minutes to cook and they will be required to use a key ingredient that is local to Colorado.

The winning team will have their meal served at a LiveWell Colorado banquet in December.

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