School nutrition staff from across the state were encouraged to get creative and play with their food last week during the 2nd annual North Carolina Farm to School Produce Art Challenge. The competition was held as part of the School Nutrition Association of North Carolina’s annual conference.
The Bladen County Helping Hands team earned bragging rights and garnishing kits. The Craven Carvers placed second and received chef knives. Third place and cutting boards went to Wilkes Wonder Women. Entries were judged on originality and creativity, team work, use of time, and use of products.
“This is the second year of the competition,” said Heather Barnes, N.C. Farm to School marketing specialist. “Last year only four teams competed, this year we held district competitions and then eight teams competed in the finals. We all loved seeing the results. Not everyone can look at a watermelon or a strawberry or a potato and see all these creations made from produce. It’s talent! I don’t have that talent.
“We do this competition to promote North Carolina produce, and to have a little fun,” Barnes added. “We appreciate our involvement with the school nutrition staff and their willingness to promote North Carolina products on their menus.”
Each team is given a variety of produce, assembly supplies and one hour to complete their creation. Then, the edible art is judged by a panel of three. This year, Patrick O’Brian, the Fruit Carving Ninja from Fayetteville, was one of the judges.
Other teams competing were GCS Rocks from the Guilford School District, The Garnishing Queens from Down East from the Pitt/Washington School District, The Garden Girls from Lincoln County School District, Slaughtermelon & The “Honey-Do’s” from Henderson County School District and Crazy Carvers from the Nash-Rocky Mount District.
N.C. Farm To School is a program that supplies school cafeterias across the state with fresh, locally grown produce from North Carolina farms. Last school year, 88 school districts in the state participated in the program. Nearly $1.3 million in produce was purchase for the schools directly from farmers.