You’re Invited to Reimagine School Lunch


Transport yourself back to the 5th grade: you’ve just submitted a quiz on times tables, and lamented your errors. The bell rings and you scurry through the hallway toward the cafeteria. The doors open and you assume your place line. You step forward toward the glass barrier to see the server (hair net askew), hand them your tray, and watch as some chicken (?) nuggets and soggy french fries plop on your tray. “Mmmmm,” you think to yourself, “nutritious.”

And while pop quizzes aren’t going away anytime soon, Arizona chefs know that school lunch doesn’t have to be this way.

That’s why an all-star line-up of Phoenix chefs have banded together to give school food “a major makeover”. And you’re invited to taste the difference. 

After a year of collaborating in the classrooms, kitchens, and cafeterias, the Blue Watermelon team has cooked up something you’ll love: the second “Feeding the Future: School Lunch Inspired Bites & Beverages” on Saturday, January 26th from 1-4 p.m. at The Farm at South Mountain.

The event structure has evolved to reflect the last year of progress. The Blue Watermelon team explains:

“With mentorship from professional chefs, six teams of high school students spent months testing and costing meals that adhere to both the nutritional and budgetary restrictions of the National School Lunch Program. During the tasting event, diners will stroll through the Pecan Grove at The Farm at South Mountain and enjoy these inspired visions for the future of school food. The teams include: 

  • Students from Chandler High School, mentored by James Beard Award nominated chef and Devour Phoenix member Charleen Badman of FnB.

  • Students from Deer Valley High School mentored by Butch Raphael, executive chef at Phoenix Children’s Hospital.

  • Students from Mesa High School mentored by chefs Tamara Stanger of Cotton & Copper and Shasha Raj of 24 Carrots.

After sampling student-made menus featuring dishes such as “No Carne Chili con Queso” and a “Thanksgiving Monte Cristo,” a panel of judges will select one team to receive scholarships from the Blue Watermelon project. Attendees also will be invited to vote for one team to win a People’s Choice Award.”

In addition to the lunch items prepared by students and their mentor chefs, guests will enjoy appetizers and sides from other Valley chefs; desserts from Tracy Dempsey of Tracy Dempsey Originals and Casey Hopkins of Cartel Coffee Lab; and wine, beer and non-alcoholic beverages from Dos Cabezas WineWorks and other local producers. 

Tickets are $79 and include food and two drink tickets, with all profits returning to the Blue Watermelon Project.

Emily Bell