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Company : Northgate Gonzalez Market
Program category : Youth


Kid Healthy based in Orange County serves the needs of Southern California families, has been hosting Cooking up Change®, (CUC) for five years now in partnership with Northgate Gonzalez Market, grocer in Southern CA and was the first organizations to host the event in California.

Cooking up Change is a healthy cooking contest that provides high school students from Title I, low-income schools, the tools and training to transform their school lunch menu; develop valuable culinary arts skills, improve self-esteem, and inspires them to continue their education in culinary arts and nutrition sciences. Each team, made up of 2-3 students, is partnered with a professional chef to create a new lunch menu using common ingredients found in a typical school food service department. Orange County teams will present their fare to our esteemed panel of local judges and the winning team then travels to Washington, DC to compete on a national level. The finalists from all national competitions, including Orange County, are invited to compete in the national finals in Washington, DC. The Orange County teams have come home with the national title in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2016 and finished 2nd in 2015. CUC creates a platform for which students can deliver their message to the nation’s leaders and policymakers, advocate for more funding, higher nutritional standards, and better tasting school food.

Non-profit Video: Kid Healthy - Cooking up Change 2016 Highlights from ZD Productions on Vimeo.


Our Viva La Salud wellness manager sits on Kid Healthy Community Advisory Board since 2011. Northgate agreed to be title sponsors and host a pilot of Cooking up Change in 2012 at our corporate headquarters in Anaheim. NG went along with Kid Healthy into schools and met with principals, cafeteria directors and community leaders to sell the program. The event was such a success we have made it an annual event. NG host each year all of the competing school teams for an overview of contest, meet & greet others, tour of NG headquarters including distribution warehouse, giving overview of operations and job opportunities. NG chairs the hosting committee each year which helps transform our associate cafeteria into CUC event. We offer vendor community sponsorship package opportunity and engagement to judge on local competition. We host a VIP reception for all sponsors and mentor chefs on day of event followed by main tasting event with over 250 attendees. NG also donates the prizes for the local student winners and over $8,000 in scholarships for in 2016 students through the Gonzalez Reynoso Foundation.


As a strategy for engaging students and raising awareness about healthy eating Northgate and Kid Healthy have joined Chicago-based Healthy Schools Campaign’s Cooking up Change serious. The unique strength of Cooking up Change comes from its power to elevate a meal and a message created by students so that it reaches their peers locally and nationwide. The guidelines for recipes need to be approved by RDs with a tight budget and meet high school standards on nutrition. It also reaches the elected leaders whose decisions about school food policy affect student health so directly. Winning student teams have the opportunity to take part in a Capitol Hill briefing on the future of school food, while in DC. In addition, student-designed meals from the contest have been served in schools across the country as well as in a special assembly of U.S. House of Representatives. Its formatted as a tasting and they get to meet the students and talk with them directly.


Perhaps most tellingly, lunches from Cooking up Change have been integrated into the school food menus in public schools and are now served regularly in some districts including Orange County.  A testament to the students’ skills in creating recipes that meet real-life constraints for ingredients and preparation; and their ability to design healthy lunches that are popular with their peers.

In addition to spotlighting remarkable student talent, CUC brings attention to the challenges of serving fresh, healthy school meals and the need for reform in our school food system. This focus is especially important and timely as leaders across the U.S. continue to support First Lady Michelle Obama’s call to action to end childhood obesity in this generation, particularly focusing on school food.

5 Years of Success with Cooking Up Change® in Orange County:

4                             1st Place National Trophies

1                              2nd Place National Trophy

153                         Total Student Recipes Created

41                           Total After School Snack Recipes Created

40                           Mentor Chefs

30                           Total Scholarships Awarded

$250,000              Total Amount Raised to Support Kid Healthy, the OC Regional Cooking up Change Contest  


“I had the pleasure to participate as a judge for CUC event.  Observing the young, ambitious culinary students and their passion for healthy alternatives to cafeteria meals was simply amazing.  Their creativity was conveyed through the dishes they served, and I’m looking forward to participating in years to come!”

Ron Jackson, Director of Sales
Chiquita Fresh North America L.L.C. 

“Northgate Markets “CUC” program is an innovative program that inspires high school students to get involved in learning about nutrition, their school food program and how food can lead to an exciting career path in the future. As the registered dietitian for Avocados from Mexico, I was honored to be included as a judge for the competition, but the experience was the biggest gift of them all. It was a lot of fun tasting their culinary creations, listening to their enthusiasm about food and witnessing a community brought together by a retailer committed to making a difference.”

Barbara Ruhs, MS, RDN

The “CUC” event sponsored by Northgate, provides a wonderful opportunity for the youth to engage in making a difference in the meals served in school.  This activity is an inspiration not only for the students but for all the partners and attendees.   It’s a chance to believe that change can happen . . . good changes.

Maridet Castro Ibañez, RD
Family Health Division/Nutrition Services OC– WIC & NEOP Program

"Based on our values we created our Viva La Salud health and wellness program to help make awareness for our associates and customers in issues like obesity, chronic diseases and education on wellness resources within the communities we serve and live in. Being able to bring Cooking up Change to high school students and our communities I believe has been one of our most successful programs with our youth, Viva La Salud!"

Victor Gonzalez, Vice President of Northgate Gonzalez Markets