ETCM 2013 Reflections

Reflections from Eco Top Chef Marin


“I learned how much sugar we normally eat and have eaten a lot less since.”

“Now I look at ingredients in the grocery store and can tell my mom not to buy it if it has high fructose corn syrup.”

“I know that GMOs aren’t labeled and they should be.”

“I understand now how much more money goes to farmers when you buy at the farmers’ market instead of at the store.”

“At the farmers’ market they showed us how many cups of sugar are in a candy bar. It’s hard to imagine that much sugar could be in something so small but now I know.”

“The best part for me is seeing it happen here, in a school kitchen. If it can happen today then we now have living proof it will work and we can tell our principal. I know it works because we’re doing it right now.”

Maya G6th Grade, Kent Middle School

“From the countless insightful activities of learning to the exciting final competition, Eco Top Chef has been a wonderful experience from the first day to the last. As stewards of the earth it is very important for the kids of my generation to learn about the environment and how our choices in food affect goodness of the earth as well as our own health, and Eco Top Chef has been a great opportunity for me and many other students to understand how we as a small part of California can make a big difference in the world around us.

The entire program of Eco Top Chef had many different opportunities to learn about food and prepare for the final competition. It was the first day of the program that all the schools gathered to understand why they were there in the first place. As the leader of the program, Judi Shils, talked to us about the many aspects of the food we eat, we all had a better understanding of what was going into our mouths and bodies. We learned about food steroids that can make food look more colorful or large but isn’t a chemical that you want in your body. We also learned about how we as middle school students had a goal to move from conventional, which is processed, higher in chemicals, and artificial sugar, to conscious, which is mainly organic, natural and includes fewer ingredients.

Though we were in Eco Top Chef to change our school lunches and improve our health, the fun part was the main focus of the program. The competition. The competition was a contest to see which school could make the best tasting meal. To me this sounded pretty easy at first. But then she told us what would make this such a challenge. This would have to be an all organic four-course meal. And it all had to be $1.37 at the max. By the point that Judi told us that I didn’t think this would be possible…a four course meal plus a drink for under a buck thirty five sounded extremely unrealistic. But after visiting the farmers market, Whole Foods, and Greengultch farms I discovered that you can get a lot out of just a little amount of money. We ended up being able to successfully make the meal with the required amount of money. And to make our group unique, we decided to make it all vegan after begging inspired by a vegan group member, Shannon Donnolen. And when the day of the competion came, I was very excited to cook our meal which included a ripe, juicy corn side dish, a delicious and flavorful kale stir fry with mushrooms and tofu and a sweet, frozen treat composed of Lechee ice and and fresh, red strawberries. The meal was complete once we topped it off with a ginger-limeade drink. After putting lots of effort into our meal, we were awarded third place out of eight schools. Though the beautiful and tasty outcome of our meal was a great feeling knowing that me and my group made it, so much more came out of the experience too. In fact, it has changed my everyday life. Me and my family began to also shop at Good Earth and Whole Foods. I have learned to read labels and be conscious of the things that I am putting into my body. I have also learned to be grateful that we live in a place where organic and fresh foods are available to us. But most importantly I now understand that just a couple students in middle school can change the health of the future.”

 Photos from past years of the program.