Meals designed by Herndon High School students are served to families in need


Their meal, carne asada with Cuban rice and mango, came in third place in the Real Food for Kids' Culinary Challenge.

ARLINGTON, Va. (WDVM) — Every Tuesday, an impressive, long line of families snakes down a sidewalk outside of a South Arlington apartment complex. Volunteers hand out groceries and supplies to those in need. Among them are professional chefs from Real Food for Kids. The organization, which usually develops nutritional, USDA-approved school lunches, launched a new program during the coronavirus pandemic called Chefs Feeding Families to serve those meals in high-risk areas. 

Before school was interrupted last spring, a group of Herndon High School family and consumer sciences students competed in the Real Food for Kids’ Culinary Challenge. Their meal, carne asada with Cuban rice and mango, came in third place for its nutritional value, great taste, and great price. 

“I really like taking new risks and experiencing new things I’ve never done before so it was a really shocking opportunity that my teachers gave me,” said Ivonne Claro, a rising eleventh grader at Herndon High School. “I was like, ‘Yes,’ I didn’t think about it twice. I was like, ‘Yes, I want to do it.’” 

“They had sessions where they sat, and they tasted, and they talked and [asked], ‘How can we improve and change to make it a more winning meal?’” said Heather Palm, their family and consumer sciences teacher.

Like the school year, the culinary challenge was interrupted and the students couldn’t present their meal before a panel of judges. The solution is a bit more rewarding this year — every Tuesday, the students’ meal is served to Arlington’s hungry families. The meal is also available to purchase from Mighty Meals and half of the proceeds will go back to Real Food for Kids.

“Giving the opportunity for other people who don’t have cars to be able to go to an event and don’t have those chances — it was a really good feeling,” Claros said.

The winning recipe: Carne Asada with Cuban Fried Rice and Mango

  1. In a medium bowl, combine cilantro, olive oil, soy sauce, orange juice, lime juice, garlic, jalapeno, cumin and one teaspoon pepper; set aside 1/2 cup of the mixture in the refrigerator until ready to serve. In a gallon size Ziploc bag or large bowl, combine steak and remaining cilantro mixture; marinate for at least four hours to overnight, turning the bag occasionally. Drain the steak from the marinade.
  2. Preheat grill to medium high heat. Using paper towels, pat both sides of the steak dry; season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  3. Add steak to grill, and cook, flipping once, until desired done-ness, about six minutes per side for medium rare. Let rest five minutes.
  4. Thinly slice steak against the grain and serve with reserved 1/2 cup cilantro mixture.
  5. Heat oil in a shallow frying pan, and saute garlic, onion, green pepper. When the onion starts to become translucent, add the cooked rice, and stir continuously over high heat for about five minutes . Add ginger and soy sauce, and continue cooking and stirring quickly. Lower heat, cover, and cook for seven or eight minutes.
  6. Add the scrambled eggs, and stir the rice thoroughly, seasoning with more soy sauce as needed. Serve immediately.
  7. Dice mango into bite-size pieces to serve on the side.


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