By Krystal Register, MS, RDN, LDN, Director, Health & Well-being, FMI
Young Cooks Recipe Challenge

The Partnership for Food Safety Education (PFSE) put a call out to kids and teens to join in a recipe contest, and from all across the country, they responded. As part of the Young Cooks Recipe Challenge, these aspiring chefs were asked to create healthy lunch recipes with food safety steps using the Safe Recipe Style Guide. This contest is everything I love as a registered dietitian all in one: handwashing, food safety, good-for-you foods that align with the Dietary Guidelines, home-cooking, creativity, and fun in the kitchen! 

Honored to be one of the finalist judges for this year's contest, I anxiously awaited as a panel of experts whittled down the plethora of entries to the top four finalists. At last, I was asked to review, prepare and taste each of the final recipes, and then score them by granting points for taste, visual appeal, creativity and following directions:

  • Did it taste great from first bite to last?
  • Would I make it again for lunch?
  • Would I post this on social media?
  • Did the recipe use common ingredients in an interesting way?
  • Does it include at least two of the following: fruit, vegetables, whole grains, or lean protein?
  • Are the instructions clear and inclusive of steps from the Safe Recipe Style Guide?

This was not an easy task, as all of the final recipes I prepared were incredible. Not only did I have fun shopping, cooking and eating the amazing finalist recipes, I now have new favorite healthy go-to lunch ideas. Thank you, young chefs! 

Winners will be announced as part of the PFSE Facebook Live World Food Safety Day event on June 7th hosted by Lunchbox Dad. Though there will be only one Grand Prize winner selected, this judge feels strongly that ALL of the young chefs who entered are winners who will continue to explore new flavors, inspire family meals and keep things healthy, safe and fun as they cook and create in their kitchens!! 

With more families cooking at home this past year, encouraging children to help out is not only timely but can be inspirational. Families report the intent to continue cooking and enjoying more meals together at home in the future, so why not get the kids involved? Particularly when we know that habits formed in childhood are more likely to stick. Something magical happens when kids are in the kitchen, inspired to use nutrient-rich foods (like vegetables) AND important food safety steps (like handwashing). What a great opportunity to start building healthy habits at home that can last for a lifetime! 

Created in 2019, the Safe Recipe Style Guide provides specific, concise recipe instructions to address four areas of food safety risk in the home: temperature, handwashing, cross-contamination, and fresh produce handling. Observational research shows that when recipes contain food safety instructions, people follow them. In research published in the Journal of Food Protection, 90% of people washed their hands using recipes with safety instructions, compared to just 59% who washed hands while preparing food without safety instructions. While cooking, kids learn food and kitchen safety, nutrition, math, science, and they develop fine motor skills. Also, learning to cook early may have long-term benefits in both health and nutrition into adulthood.

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