Last April we held our first-ever pizza challenge at Martin Kellogg Middle School in Newington, Connecticut.
One afternoon after school, our group of Fuel Up to Play 60 (FUTP60) students rolled up their sleeves and put on their chef hats to create the most nutritious and delicious pizza pies they could think of. At the end, a panel of judges selected their top choice based on a set of criteria, and the winning pies were later featured on the lunch line for all to enjoy.
This hands-on cooking activity was held in our cafeteria over the course of an hour, with the support of my fellow FUTP60 program advisor Elisa Batista, the technology department, school nutrition staff, additional support staff, the New England Dairy & Food Council, and a local dairy farmer, Jim Stearns.
Why did we do this? To provide students with an engaging way to get involved in shaping their school lunch choices. Want to hold a pizza challenge at your school? Below are the step-by-step instructions, tips, and a timeline I used the day of the challenge, as well as a video from the event.
Steps to holding a Pizza Challenge
Step 1: Four weeks before the cook off event, invite students to register their team and select their pizza ingredients using a Pizza Challenge Order Form.
Step 2: On the day of the event, have student teams work in their groups of two or three to build their pies. Our students filmed this process to later use the footage to create how-to videos to share with friends. We chose to collaborate with the technology department on this additional project, but it is optional for the pizza challenge.
Step 3: While waiting for the pizzas to bake, the students learned about dairy farming by watching this video and playing Kahoot! They also participated in a Q&A session with local dairy farmer Jim Stearns, who was one of the pizza challenge judges.
Step 5: The winners were announced the following week over the school’s loud speaker, and the pizza recipes were offered as part of the school lunch menu. Pictures of the winning Master Chef teams were placed on the serving line when their pizzas were featured.
- Prior to the event ask nutrition staff to pre-measure and pre-portion all of the ingredients ordered and deliver it to each group’s table so that students get what they need to create their pizza.
- Have each group’s ingredient order form at their table, with their group number, on the day of the event for them to review to ensure they have what they need to build their pizzas.
- Have markers on hand for students to write down their group number on their chef hat (for easy identification) and on the aluminum foil to make it easy to identify what group made which pizza (make sure number is written next to pizza on aluminum foil, and not underneath). Have enough foil on hand to send home extra pizza slices with each student team.
- Have judges sample pizzas as they come out of the oven to have ample time to try each one.
Here is an example of the timeline we used to get through each step over the course of the hour. This should be adapted to fit the needs of your school.
2:50-2:55 pm Students arrive, place belongings on perimeter tables, and find group and assigned table. They should write their team number on the chef hats at their table before putting them on so that cafeteria staff can easily identify them when they need to deliver the baked pizzas to their table. They should then read the activity rules, review their order forms, wash hands, and put on gloves.
2:55-3:00 pm Welcome students and staff, provide overview of the event, distribute foil and pizza making supplies. Remind students to label hats and foil, and that staff will be available for questions and support.
3:00 pm Students should begin building their pizzas using ingredients on their table.
3:40-3:50pm Clean up, announce winners, closing remarks.
Here’s a glimpse into what the day looked like.
Good luck, have fun, and start cooking! 🍕
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