Two groups of students from the district will compete in the finals in Jacksonville on May 6.
For the fourth time in as many years as the contest has been going on, Flagler Schools students have been chosen to participate in the Dairy Council of Florida’s annual Gridiron Cooking Challenge.
"It's really kind of amazing how we keep getting picked to go back," said Cathie Zanella, who heads up Bunnell Elementary School's Fuel 60 Ag Club, one of two teams in the district selected as just four finalist groups from the state.
The other team is from Buddy Taylor Middle School.
Flagler students will get the chance to show off their cooking skills on May 6 at EverBank Field in Jacksonville. They will prepare their original recipes before a panel of judges with the chance to win a $2,500 prize pack for their school, four iPads and additional prizes.
Earlier this year, Florida students in elementary and middle schools submitted healthy, original recipes featuring dairy ingredients created by four-person teams, with help from faculty advisors. Bunnell Elementary's winning finalist recipe is for Mac & Cheese Veggie Bites with Homemade Chicken Nuggets. The team from Buddy Taylor qualified for the finals with their recipe for Meatball Bombs with Creamy Four-Cheese Garlic Spaghetti.
The group from Bunnell has been perfecting the execution of their dishes over the last several weeks.
As she stirred a bowl of cheddar cheese and cottage cheese at one run-through on April 17, sixth-grader Rachel King explained how the group came up with the idea for the recipe.
"Well, it's very kid-friendly, not hard to make, and it uses a lot of dairy," King said.
The mixture for the Mac 'n' Cheese Veggie Bites (which contains pureed squash, hence the "veggie" part of it) is poured into a greased mini muffin pan and baked. The chicken nuggets are served on the side with homemade Ranch dressing.
Zanella said the first two years that Bunnell Elementary students submitted recipes to the Gridiron Cooking Challenge, they went on to take home the top prize at the finals. Last year, Bunnell students came in as runners-up. But she said it's really great how Buddy Taylor students will join them this year at the competition.
One of the flagship programs at Bunnell Elementary is agri-science, and it's a focus most students seem to really enjoy, according to Zanella, who said the school plants, cultivates and harvests its own fruits and vegetables in an outdoor garden, supplying the cafeteria with fresh produce.
"If they're more close to their food source, then they want to eat the healthy stuff," Zanella said.