The Northwest District 4-H Food Challenge took place on January 7, 2023, and the results were phenomenal! This new competition challenges youth to work as teams of no less than two or more than four, and practice critical thinking, open communication, and presentation skills. Presentations are to include the knowledge and skills youth have learned through the project such as kitchen safety, food safety, cooking techniques, recipe creation, and how they worked together. But that is not all, additionally, teams are using a set of specific cooking supplies, a mystery ingredient, a specific dish category (main dish, side dish, appetizer, or healthy dessert), and a set amount of 4-H money to spend at the challenge grocery store. The entire competition allows 40 minutes for youth to put all of this into practice. Escambia County entered a senior and intermediate team while Liberty County entered an intermediate team into the inaugural competition.
Escambia County’s senior team, dubbed O Crepe and the Spice Girls consisted of Alan Bray-Crews, Laney Clarke, Ryan Clarke, and Aubrie Dillon, who were presented with portabella mushrooms for their mystery ingredient with the category of the main dish. The team produced an excellent mushroom soup as their main dish. The dish along with their well-prepared presentation earned them a place in the Florida 4-H State Food Challenge competition at the Florida State Fair in Tampa on February 18.
The two intermediate teams’ mystery ingredient was Brussel sprouts and the side dish category. The Flaming Clovers of Escambia County consisted of Chloe Bray-Crews, Brian Brewster, Charli McClendon, and Kayla Weaver with alternate member Scott Weaver on hand. The Culinary Criminals represented Liberty County made up of Harper Holt, Jansen Capers, Isabella Ransom, and Lexi Ford. The two teams created uniquely different dishes and presentations. While the Escambia team received the first-place ribbon, Liberty County’s team came in a very close second place. Escambia’s intermediate team also earned a place at the Florida State Food Challenge competition at the Florida State Fair in Tampa!
With both Escambia teams representing the Northwest District at the state competition, it was exhilarating to watch the kids interact and quiz one another while awaiting the competition to begin. Seniors were given a red bell pepper as the mystery ingredient with the category of side dish and intermediates were given a tangerine for their mystery ingredient with the category of healthy dessert. Again, Escambia County dominated and secured first place in both age categories. The first-place senior team at the Florida State Fair, Escambia County’s O Crepe and the Spice Girls, is eligible to compete in the National 4-H Food Challenge at the State Fair of Texas in Dallas this fall.
This new 4-H opportunity has been embraced in several counties thus far and will continue to grow. This project promotes practical life skills youth will use for the rest of their lives. If your child is interested in food and nutrition and/or healthy lifestyles projects, contact your local 4-H Agent to explore project opportunities.
A special thanks to Escambia County’s volunteer leader, Linda Crews, who has embraced this competition and has worked with these youth to truly make the best better, and to Mr. Dave Clarke for sharing state event photos.
For more information about the 4-H Food Challenge, visit our webpage. The 4-H Food Challenge would be a fun program for your next club meeting. Download the youth guide, team captain guide, and guide for hosting a food challenge.
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