Healthy competition

Young chefs vie to create healthiest snack
Octavio Villegas, 10, a fourth grade student, makes Awesome Orbs with the help of a food processor. His recipe won first place during the healthy snack competition as part of the Sodexo's 2015 Future Chefs Challenge. Rich Cooley/Daily
Fifth grade student Skylier Jones, 11, of Front Royal, tops off her Sweet Salad with Yogurt as her healthy snack entry during the Sodexo's 2015 Future Chefs Challenge held at E.W. Morrison Elementary School on Thursday evening. Rich Cooley/Daily
Brennan Sellers, 10, of Middletown, holds a plate of his Caramel Apple Nachos that he entered in the snack recipe challenge. Rich Cooley/Daily

At the Sodexo 2015 Future Chefs Challenge, Warren County fourth and fifth graders competed to make the healthiest after school snack they could.

Five finalists were chosen from 35 who entered recipes through their schools, but in the end only one could win.

Securing the top spot  was Octavio Villegos, a fourth-grade student at Leslie Fox Elementary whose Awesome Orbs feature mostly organic ingredients that hungry children can prepare in fewer than 10 minutes.

The national challenge is in its fifth year, and Warren County Public Schools have participated for four years, said Stephanie Steed, program coordinator for Sodexo.

The district competition took place Thursday evening at E. Wilson Morrison Elementary School in Front Royal, where cafeteria managers helped students with the preparation and presentation of their recipes before judges Sheriff Daniel T. McEathron, Debbie Drescher and David Gedney tasted the five recipes and voted for their favorites.

Coming in second place was Skylier Jones, 11, with Sweet Salad with Yogurt that featured strawberries, bananas and grapes.

Third place went to Olivia Gibson, 11, for her Oat Balls recipe; fourth place to Brennan Sellars, 10, for Caramel Apple Nachos; and fifth place to Andrew Grant, 10, for Apple Dapple Snack Mix.

Recipes were judged on originality, taste, ease of presentation, kid friendliness and use of healthy ingredients.

“We base it on simplicity that all fourth or fifth graders would be able to make this,” Steed said.

Many recipes featured fruit or oats, and she said overall the challenge was successful.

Octavio’s recipe will compete for a regional title, and if he wins, he will move on to the national competition, Steed said. Last year’s district winner, Alexia Clatterbuck, now in sixth grade, made it to the regional competition and won a Kindle Fire for her All American Breakfast Sandwich featuring cream cheese, strawberry jelly, bananas and blueberries arranged in a depiction of an American flag.

This year’s prizes haven’t been announced yet, Steed said.

The use of organic ingredients in this year’s competition didn’t surprise her, since she said organic options have been winning over more and more children.

“A lot of children are so aware of organic ingredients,” Steed said. “It’s becoming more available I think and a lot of parents are introducing it to their children.”

She was impressed to see how many recipes featured organic ingredients, though 10-year-old Octavio was especially specific that everything from the oats and quinoa flake blend cereal to the pure vanilla extract ought to be organic.

Any recipe might be made organic, but Steed said that decision depends on what young chefs can find at home. Some organic ingredients might cost more, though in her experience others cost the same or less than their non-organic counterparts.

Organic is easier to find these days, she said.

“People notice it more,” she said. “I eat all organic. My son does too.”

“I did try the awesome orbs and they were really good.”

Contact staff writer Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or

Awesome Orbs
by Octavio Villegos

1/2 cup dried organic cranberries
1/2 cup white morsels
1/2 cup organic oats and quinoa flake blend cereal
1/4 cup organic unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 tsp organic chia seeds
1/2 tsp organic flax seeds
1/2 tsp organic coconut oil (warmed)
1/4 tsp organic pure vanilla extract

1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor, mixing for 3-5 minutes.
2. Remove mixture from food processor and put in a large mixing bowl.
3. Roll mixture into 1/2-inch balls.
4. Serve.

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