Takoma Park Middle School has secured an impressive fifth in the Real Food For Kids Culinary Challenge.

The event, hosted by Real Food For Kids in its 12th year, saw sixteen high school and middle school teams from area public schools competing to create the best plant-based breakfast, snack, and lunch dishes.

“The Real Food for Kids Culinary Challenge is just one of the programs that support the organization’s mission to provide sustainable access to real whole foods, impactful nutrition information, and local systematic policy changes to those in need throughout the DMV,” the McLean, Va.-based nonprofit said in a press release.

The winning dish from Takoma Park Middle School, consisting of Lentil Vegetable Soup, Grilled Paneer Cheese with Mango Chutney, and Masala Fries, will be featured in school cafeterias across the region next year.

Takoma Park Middle School has dominated the Real Food For Kids Culinary Challenge in recent years, securing victories in 2019, 2020, 2021, 2023, and now 2024.

The competition kicked off with the lunch category teams presenting their creations to a panel of eight judges, including local restaurant industry professionals like Moon Rabbit chef/owner Kevin Tien, The Inn at Little Washington culinary operations director Julian Eckhardt, and Caruso’s Grocery chef/owner Matt Adler. The event also showcased a public tasting session where attendees could sample and vote for their favorite dishes in each category for the Community Choice awards.

Takoma Park Middle School claimed the top spot in the main culinary challenge, followed by South Lakes High School in second place and Luther Jackson Middle School in third. The Community Choice awards, determined by public votes, recognized Takoma Park Middle School for lunch, Freedom High School for breakfast, and Freedom High School for the snack category.

Additionally, the event featured a chef cooking demonstration by James Beard semi-finalist and Michelin-starred chef Chris Morgan and was emceed by former Washington Post deputy food editor Bonnie S. Benwick.

Real Food for Kids: Chefs Feeding Families was launched during the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure nutrition security for school children and families in the region. Since 2020, this initiative has delivered more than 375,000 nourishing meals to local food-insecure families.

Silver Diner, a key partner of the program, is teaming up during National Nutrition Month to fundraise for farm-fresh produce boxes for students and families in the DMV area. In honor of the restaurant’s 35-year anniversary, Silver Diner aims to raise $35,000. As a special bonus, every $10 donation made to Silver Diner will be rewarded with a $10 gift certificate for the restaurant.

For additional information about Real Food for Kids, visit realfoodforkids.org.

Photos: Deb Lindsey / Real Food for Kids