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National Restaurant Association - Sysco recipe contest focuses on kids’ health

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Sysco recipe contest focuses on kids’ health

As part of its plan to equip restaurateurs with the tools to offer more healthful menu options to children, national foodservice distributor Sysco Corporation held its first annual Kids Healthy Recipe Contest last month as part of a revamp of the company's Sysco Healthy and Positive Eating, or SHAPE, initiative.

More than 40 children judged the Oct. 24 contest, which followed the guidelines of the National Restaurant Association's Kids LiveWell program. The NRA program promotes restaurant menu items that meet qualifying criteria based on leading health organizations' scientific recommendations.

The recipe contest's judges were children of Sysco associates, aged 6-12.

The grand-prize winner was Sea Fingers, by Pat Benzin of Sysco Eastern Maryland, which consisted of cornflake-crusted fish sticks served with roasted sweet potatoes, fresh fruit medley, and skim milk. Second place went to Richard Boone of Sysco Hampton Roads for his Apple Slap Jacks with Fruit Leather, which featured whole-wheat apple pancakes, a side of homemade fruit leather and soy milk as a beverage. Third place was awarded to Callie Davis of Sysco North Texas for her Clown Around Pizza, a toasted whole-wheat English muffin topped with melted cheese, fresh tomatoes and broccoli, drizzled with ranch dressing.

According to Karen Horsley, senior director of Sysco's Healthcare and Nutrition Services, more than 500 recipes were submitted. Teams of chefs, business review specialists and registered dietitians prepared the items, and a team of six dietitians verified the nutritional compliance of each recipe. Recipes were categorized by meal times.

"You could tell each team went above and beyond with their recipe submissions," she said. "The enthusiasm was evident in their attention to detail."

Neil Doherty, Sysco's senior director of culinary development, said selecting the contest's finalists was a "daunting task, but we looked forward to seeing the creative recipes and plate presentations come to life, and the looks on each child's face as they tried a bite."

"Combating the obesity crisis by reaching out to kids in their formative years is bound to have a lasting impression," said Valerie Hoover, a nutrition specialist for Sysco. "If we teach children healthy habits and how to make healthy choices, and also equip their favorite restaurants with the tools and resources to serve them accordingly, we are on the right track."

Lauryn Langhorne, a Sysco healthcare services specialist, agreed, saying, "Our hope is that the communication will be sparked between kids and their families to start eating healthier and that they request healthier options at the restaurants they patronize."

The National Restaurant Association, with McCormick For Chefs, is sponsoring a Kids Recipe Challenge to highlight innovative kids' menu options. Applications are due Jan. 7, 2013. For more information, visit www.restaurant.org/recipe.

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