Cooking & Winning with Ben’s Beginners™ Cooking Contest

Sponsored Post

I never imagined that cooking dinner would change my family’s lives and have an impact on the community where I live. But it did. And it wasn’t even a meal that I made myself.

About a year ago, my daughter Claire and I teamed up to cook dinner together, but not just cook it, we also filmed it. Channeling our inner celebrity chefs, we created a short video about our creation and sent it into Uncle Ben’s® for a national contest.  One meal, one film, one night of family bonding and our lives were changed.

The Ben’s Beginners™ Cooking Contest is a national program that encourages parents to get their children in the kitchen to teach them about cooking and healthy eating habits. As a mother of two wonderful kids and a teacher at an elementary school with many children receiving free or reduced lunch, I know firsthand how important teaching kids’ good eating habits can be. What better way to teach my own kids this lesson and lead by example?

So, we were one among hundreds of families who submitted a short video of ourselves cooking healthy meals together with our children. After our video was entered, we got our community to rally around us and my daughter’s school. With their help, my daughter Claire was named one of the three finalists in the contest. We were shocked and so excited. It was overwhelming to see so much support from our community, not only for us as a family, but also in helping to bring a new cafeteria to our school, which so desperately needed it.

In early January, Uncle Ben’s called and said they were planning an event intended to celebrate all the finalists. Much to our surprise, however, it was announced that we were the Grand Prize winner of the Ben’s Beginners™ contest and $15,000 for our family as well as a$30,000 cafeteria makeover for Claire’s school! The whole community who had supported us so much during the process was there to celebrate the win.  Claire even received a key to the city from the Mayor Tim Walker for her hard work. Since the win, Claire has been known as the “Uncle Ben’s® girl” around the community.

The school is using the prize money to upgrade our cafeteria; previously school lunch was prepared for the students at another location and then driven in each day. All in all, this prize money will greatly impact the students in our community by giving them an opportunity to eat freshly prepared and healthier meals.  The Ben’s Beginners™ contest has been the gift that just keeps on giving!

What started as a fun way to make a simple meal for our family will end up feeding so many children for years to come. If you have a night where you’re dreading making dinner, I encourage you to liven things up a bit. Bring the kids in to help, teach them how to cook, film your work. Who knows, you may end up with more than a meal in the end.

Rachel Noles and her daughter Claire are the 2013 Ben’s Beginners™ Cooking Contest Grand Prize winner.

Protecting Our Children: A Mom’s Quest to keep her Teens Safe Leads to New Technology

Sponsored Blog Post

I have two wonderful children that have always made me immensely proud to be their mom. As wonderful as they are, I still had all the normal parental worries when my kids became teenagers about how to help them survive and thrive.

Meet the Jain Family: Ameeta, Shriya, Sukant, and Kyan

Meet the Jain Family: Ameeta, Shriya, Sukant, and Kyan

My oldest recently headed off to college and my youngest is nearing high school graduation, which means smartphones and social media have been a big part of their adolescence.

My husband and I had felt prepared to navigate things like questionable clothing trends, drugs, alcohol, mean girl behavior, etc., but sexting, anonymous secret-sharing apps, and the whole cannot-last-five-seconds-without-checking-Instagram syndrome? Not so much. It was a whole different ball game and I felt out of my league.

Even though we had established a trusting and open relationship, and even though I knew in my heart that they were great kids, I wanted a solution that would give me a window into the vast digital life they were experiencing through their smartphones. Meanwhile, a business associate was having his own trials and tribulations in dealing with his teenager’s smartphone experiences and, like me, wanted to find a positive, proactive solution. And so, TeenSafe was born.

TeenSafe is an iPhone and Android monitoring service that enables parents of minors to see incoming, outgoing, and deleted text messages, web browsing history, contacts, call logs, Facebook posts, WhatsApp and Kik chat sessions, and Instagram activity and phone location through a private online account that does not require “jail-breaking” a device during installation.

Now, let’s get real. This can be a polarizing issue. Finding the balance between teen rights and parental responsibility challenges all of us as parents. Personally, I favor a “trust but verify” approach. I don’t want to restrict access to the information, rich interactions, and 21st century skills that kids can gain from these tech devices, but I do want to be kept closely in the loop about it.

I personally encourage parents to install TeenSafe before handing over that very first smartphone to their children, and to make that the norm from the get-go. It’s certainly up to you as the parent whether you disclose that the TeenSafe app is installed, but I think tweens and first-time smartphone users especially will accept that in order to have their long-awaited phone, it comes with certain provisions.

When we decided to launch TeenSafe, I knew immediately that the company would seek out ways to support the PTA at all levels. As a parent, I have gotten to witness firsthand the power of the PTA to help children thrive in schools. We wanted to contribute in a meaningful way that specifically supported teens, so it was our honor to sponsor the 2014 National PTA Youth Leadership Summit which brought together teens from across the country to build leadership skills that would empower them to be agents of change in their PTSAs, schools, and communities.

By having a presence at the National PTA Convention, we also had the pleasure to meet with key PTA leaders from the field and get candid feedback that only made us more confident that we had created a valued and needed safety tech solution.

Beyond our involvement at the National PTA level, we wanted to find a way to contribute toward local PTAs, too. TeenSafe has made it simple for PTA presidents to sign up their school (free), and then invite the parent community to register for individual TeenSafe accounts. Parents will get a lifetime discount of 33% off the retail subscription price and the local PTA will get a $10 contribution for every paid sign-up associated with their school/PTA. (If you are reading this and you are not the PTA president for your school, please consider sharing the opportunity with him/her.)

We built TeenSafe with love to protect our most valuable treasure, our children, because we believe that every parent should have a window into their child’s digital life, and because we want to help all children—whether they are happy-go-lucky kids or struggling in some way—to survive and thrive.

Learn more about how TeenSafe works in this short video clip.

Guest blogger Ameeta Jain is a proud PTSA mom, Golden State Member, and the co-founder of TeenSafe along with her husband Sukant and her business associates, The Walkers and The Legators.  Learn more about TeenSafe at

TeenSafe is a financial sponsor of National PTA, and has been invited to submit a blog post as part of their engagement with PTA. National PTA does not endorse any commercial entity, product, or service, and no endorsement is implied by this content.

Engage! in Creating Excellent Schools

Recently I had a conversation with Jennifer Wiezorek of Plant PTSA in Florida. Jennifer is the VP of Advocacy for the Hillsborough County Council PTA and the Advocacy Chair and the Social Media Chair for Plant PTSA. Last year, Jennifer served as the VP of Membership at Plant PTSA.

Hi Jennifer, thanks for being a part of the Engage blog! Can you tell me a little bit about Plant High School?

Plant High School was built in 1926 in South Tampa. Plant has been nationally ranked as a top 100 high school by a variety of publications, most recently by the Washington Post. Plant is very proud of its tradition of excellence that is illustrated in its numbers – 95% of graduates go on to college; last year’s graduating class was offered $17 million in scholarship dollars; 70% graduated with honors; 88% graduated with a 3.0 or higher; 3,400 AP exams were administered last year.

This year we have 2,335 students, 27% minority. Our PTSA is one of the largest in Hillsborough County. Last year we had 938 members. We are fortunate that our PTSA is very active. PTSA helps support the school’s student run Writing Center – a resource available to all students wanting help with writing, be it a college application essay or a class paper. We also provide the convocation speaker before prom to educate students on wise decision making. Our outreach program adopted a school without a PTA, providing support programs for students and some TLC for the staff. And of course we do the fun stuff like staff appreciation and hosting hospitality events for the school.

Why did the Plant PTSA decide to enroll in the School of Excellence?

As a local unit, we were already working hard to promote PTSA within the community and increase awareness of what PTA does as an organization beyond our school’s walls. Enrolling in School of Excellence was sort of like accepting a challenge. Even though we have always supported our school community, School Of Excellence would encourage us to reach out to and engage our families and administration in new ways. We saw it as a way to evolve as an organization and to look at how we could improve our interaction with our families.

What did you learn when you began the surveys, did anything surprise you?

The survey process was very interesting. It was a surprise to me personally to see that my own experience as a parent wasn’t necessarily the norm. As someone who has long worked closely with PTA and other organizations, it has always been easy for me to stay informed. It was eye-opening to see the number of people who felt out of the loop.

I think my favorite thing about the survey was the way our principal embraced the results and worked to bring about change. We added a comment box section to our survey to allow parents to elaborate on their responses. Results were typical – some positive comments, some negative. Our principal didn’t try to make excuses for the complaints. Instead, he shared both the good and bad feedback with the staff to raise awareness of our families’ perceptions and to look for ways to improve.

How did you decide which goals your team wanted to address?

Our PTSA executive board chose ‘To support students’ emotional and mental well-being’ as our goal. I first became interested in mental health when I was PTSA president at my kids’ middle school. A guidance counselor there mentioned that parents need to have an emotional tool-kit ready to guide their kids through adolescence. We took that idea and adapted it for Plant. As you could tell from my first response, Plant expects a lot from its students. Plant always encourages students to reach higher and challenge themselves, to never look for the easy way out, and results show that our students rise to that challenge. But the reality is that high expectations can bring about a lot of stress. That’s in addition to the emotional challenges that just come naturally with being a teenager. We recognized that there was a need within our student body to talk about emotional wellness in an open and honest way. We wanted students to feel comfortable reaching out if they were experiencing any sort of problem. We wanted to educate parents on the variety of support resources available to students through the school system. And we hoped to lessen the stigma attached to mental illness.

What was your favorite part of the process?

Overall, I think my favorite part was the learning opportunity that the process presents. School of Excellence encouraged a sort of self-discovery within our PTSA. We used the framework of the program to evaluate current practices and identify areas in need of change. The family-school survey was of enormous value in that respect. I would be willing to conduct that survey every year, even during the years we get to relax and celebrate our success!

I also appreciated the level of enthusiasm and support we received from our administration and staff. I would imagine that not every school would be open to the process, but our already busy faculty found time to support and assist us throughout the year. Earning School of Excellence is a collaborative process, and we couldn’t have done it without the backing of our school.

My favorite moment was during the evening program we conducted for the community. Plant’s social worker led off by saying to parents, “If you are not comfortable talking about mental health, your student will not feel comfortable coming to you for help if they need it.” That one statement was so powerful, and really drove home for me the reason we were working so hard.

What impact did the School of Excellence program have on your school or your PTSA?

Working toward School of Excellence ended up being a fantastic period of growth for our PTSA. We expanded our involvement with our families by creating and implementing our Healthy Families, Healthy Kids program. Conducting the survey and acting on the results demonstrated to families that their input is valued and taken seriously. Most of all, School of Excellence made us realize that no matter how excellent we thought we were before we started the process, there is always room to expand and improve.  Our PTSA is better off for having participated in the School of Excellence program, without a doubt.

Is there any advice you’d give to new schools enrolling in the program?

I’d say don’t be afraid to give it a try! It’s a lot of work, I’ll be honest about that, but the journey is truly more rewarding than the destination. I’m sure that all schools that participated, even those who didn’t complete the process, benefited in multiple ways. National PTA is there to support you along the way with a variety of resources – this isn’t something you have to tackle on your own.

I’m so glad Plant PTSA found the process so rewarding! Congratulations again on becoming a National PTA School of Excellence. I think a lot of other PTAs are going to enjoy learning about your journey. Thanks so much for your time!

If you would like more information about the National PTA School of Excellence program, check out Enrollment is open through October 1. PTAs who enroll will receive the Getting Started Guide, which describes program components, including first steps to gather feedback from families and set goals with the school.

Sherri_WilsonENGAGE! is a weekly column on Family Engagement written by Sherri Wilson, Senior Manager of Family and Community Engagement at the National PTA. Sherri is the former Director of the Alabama Parent Information and Resource Center and is currently responsible for developing and implementing programs related to family and community engagement at the National PTA.

Formulation of Comunitario PTAs

ARISE PTA Meeting 2011 - IIIThe Intercultural Development Research Association (IDRA) is an independent, non-profit organization that is dedicated to assuring educational opportunity for every child. Our IDRA Family Leadership in Education Model began to take shape in the early 1980s. From the beginning, the approach honored the participants’ language and culture and focused on parent engagement in non-traditional ways. We worked with English learner parents who wanted their children to receive an excellent bilingual education and we have a long and rich history working with families of Title I schools across the country.

The concept of the Comunitario PTA evolved over time, particularly through IDRA’s strong relationship with ARISE (A Resource In Serving Equality) in the South Texas Rio Grande Valley because of their interest in developing family leadership in education, specifically among families that are poor, recent immigrants and whose home language is Spanish. The ARISE animadoras/promotoras (outreach workers) conduct weekly home visits with direct communication and a meaningful relationship with each family.

ARISE became the first Comunitario PTA in the nation. Several others have formed in South Texas. They are unique in that rather than being based in a school, they are based in grass-roots community organizations and they establish connections with the schools their children attend.

Here are some key ideas for replicating the South Texas Comunitario Approach:

  1. Identify a community organization, civic group or church that is willing to sponsor and organize a group of families in a specific community who want to have excellent public neighborhood schools for their children.
  2. A grass-roots organization that has real, ongoing and personal contact with families is ideal.
  3. Have a core group who are in touch with their neighbors and other families in the area that are interested in belonging to such an organization.
  4. Build community through personal home visits and one-on-one communication in the language of the community.
  5. Do not suggest electing officers or becoming a formal PTA until the group has been solidified and see themselves as a group.
  6. Bring together twenty adults who commit themselves to the organization and to the goal of excellent schools for all children.
  7. Facilitate a conversation to have the initial group to identify their vision and goals they have in common.
  8. Present the broad vision and goals of PTA and identify where there is congruence or overlap.
  9. When the group is ready, present the bare-bones community PTA requirements and start the formalizing: adopting bylaws, electing officers, etc.
  10. Contact the area, regional or state person that can facilitate the formalization of the group.
  11. Search for data sources on schools, preferably from a state education site

Caveats for this approach:

  1. Don’t start by trying to sell PTA to the initial group. Many of those we are approaching aren’t interested in the traditional mode of a campus-based organization and in the traditional functions of a PTA. You may mention that the ultimate goal is to form a community PTA but the group must emerge with its own vision, mission and goals around the focus of having all children having excellent neighborhood public schools.
  2. Don’t go for large numbers or speed of organization. Some excellent community PTAs have been formed that are regional or statewide and those have their own place and function. Our approach is not to seek quick membership from a broad group of individuals but rather to focus on a very specific neighborhood or section of a community and build personal connections.
  3. Mass media or online communications cannot replace ongoing authentic outreach and personal contact. The Comunitario PTA approach is given life and continuity through labor-intensive outreach but it rewards the community with continuity and emerging leadership from previously unengaged parents and families.

For more information, check out the following links:
IDRA Family Leadership in Education Model
PTA Comunitario Website
EBook: The PTA Comunitario Approach
Podcast: How to Start A PTA Comunitario

American Diabetes Association’s Safe At School Campaign Helps Students With Diabetes

BTSchoolThe new school year has arrived and families are just settling in to their back to school routine, but for parents of children living with diabetes the back to school routine includes a few extra daily tasks and concerns. My daughter was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the tender age of 17months, so I know firsthand that in addition to packing the backpack and getting the kids to the bus stop, parents of children with diabetes need to make sure a plan in place to ensure their children are healthy and safe in the classroom and at all school sponsored activities.

I knew that managing my daughter’s diabetes was a 24/7 job so early on, as a parent, it was scary for me to not be with her all of the time.  Just like me, all parents want to be able to trust their child has access to the diabetes care they need at school, but that’s not always easy. To help ease these fears, the American Diabetes Association (Association) is here to help parents by providing the tools and resources they need to feel confident their child is in good hands each day. Our Safe at School campaign works to eliminate problems with access to care and discrimination by assisting families and schools on how to navigate and develop the plans necessary to ensure their child’s medical needs are being met at school and to help fix problems when they occur.

Unfortunately not all schools are the same, and sometimes problems can happen.  The Association offers free expert assistance and guidance from our Legal Advocates when things don’t go according to plan. In addition to one-on-one assistance, the Safe at School campaign fights to change laws and policy across the country to ensure laws and regulations are in place so children with diabetes are fully supported and are medically safe at school.

To learn more about the Safe at School campaign, I encourage you t to check out the recording of our free Back to School Parent Advocacy Webinar by visiting

For more information about the Safe at School campaign and to learn how you can help keep your child with diabetes medically safe, visit or call 1-800-DIABETES for help.

 Crystal Jackson is a mother of a daughter living with type 1 diabetes and is the Director of Safe at School at the American Diabetes Association.

Creating A Stronger School Wellness Policy at Northmont Elementary with Fire Up Your Feet

Reposted from the Fire Up Your Feet Blog

FUYF_2One of the fun things about starting down the path to school wellness is that each step leads you to new discoveries and ideas for creating a healthy, active school. For Iris Hix, a parent at Northmont Elementary School in La Mesa, CA (outside of San Diego), it all started when she learned about her school receiving a Safe Routes to School grant about a year ago. Soon after, Iris and her family got involved with a weekly walk to school each Friday, with students and families meeting at a nearby park and picking up other walkers along the route.

This spring, Northmont participated in Fire Up Your Feet for the first time. When Iris visited the website and began browsing the resources, she learned about school wellness policies and realized she wasn’t even sure if Northmont had a policy of its own. As a parent, Iris knew she was in a good position to take action, so she read up on all the resources and started doing more research of her own. She found that the school did have a wellness policy, but it was “hidden beneath paperwork” and in need of some updating.

Iris’s research informed her about about the Healthy Kids Act and its implications on the federal and local levels, and the role that parents and the community play in creating a strong wellness policy. She learned about the Farm to School program and made connections with the child nutrition director in Northmont’s school district. Now, she is working with a team of people to revise the policy and strengthen the wording.

“We have made other connections with local groups that work in the wellness policy field, and our PTA is working together to invigorate our school wellness policy,” said Iris.

Northmont won a $1,000 challenge award thanks to strong participation in the spring Fire Up Your Feet challenge. And the rewards go beyond the money. Thanks to the involvement of parents like Iris, the PTA and the supportive principal and staff, students at Northmont will benefit for years to come from having a strong, community-centered school wellness policy that promotes physical activity and healthy eating.

“We walk and bike to school, Run for Fun, dance and play hard to stay happy and healthy. Now we are starting to coordinate this wellness effort, we will work to make healthy choices into habits and make changes in our school community that everyone at Northmont Elementary will be FIRED UP about!!!” said Iris.

Congratulations, Northmont!

I Love It Because It’s Built By Me

Sofia, proud of her creation.

Sofia, proud of her creation.

A few weeks before school started, my daughter and I were shopping and she wanted to buy a few items that she dubbed “fancy things.” This included some colorful tape, glitter glue, nice paper and some pom pom balls.

We got home and I watched as she immersed herself in the art-making process. Her brow furrowed as she intently used the glitter glue. She pulled away from the paper to get a better look at her creation before she decided where to place the colorful tape. And then she removed it and placed it somewhere else where there was more blank space on the paper.

When she finished, she was proud and beaming and quickly brought it to me for approval. I pointed out the colors that I saw. I told her that I liked the various textures she included and asked how she got the sparkly strings to stick to the paper. And then I asked her what she liked about the artwork herself. She said:

I love it because it’s built by me.

Indeed, the very act of creation is one of the reasons that I believe so strongly that the arts are a necessary part of every child’s education. If you unpack Sofia’s statement, you realize that there were so many positive educational experiences happening while she created this artwork:

Sofia was deeply engaged in the process.

Sofia made decisions about her work and revised it as she went.

Sofia created something new that didn’t exist before in the world.

Researchers Lois Hetland and Ellen Winner describe the skills acquired during art classes as habits of mind—persistence, expression, observation, envisioning, innovation through exploration and reflective self-evaluation. These are skills that I want my daughter to be learning.

Fast forward three weeks, and Sofia started kindergarten. I went to back to school night, and I joined the PTA. I want be involved and make sure that she is learning the skills taught through the process of art-making.

If you too believe that the arts can be a powerful tool for learning, then here are a few resources that can help you ensure that your child gets arts experiences as part of their education.

Family Activities — Learning begins at home. Here are some simple ideas to help your child enjoy the arts.

10 Simple Ways — If your child’s school doesn’t provide classes in art, music, dance and theater, here are 10 simple ways to get more arts into your child’s life.

Questions to Ask — Here are questions to ask your education leaders to determine the quality of your school or district’s arts program.

Kristen Engebretsen is the arts education program manager for Americans for the Arts. She also is a member of the Takoma Park Elementary PTA in Maryland.

The Art of Welcoming All Families

Family School PartnershipsIf you were to paint a picture representing how you felt the first time you entered your child’s school building, what would it look like? Go ahead, take a minute to draw a picture of the feelings you had when you entered the building. We’re serious, go ahead and grab a crayon or marker from your kids’ excessive crayon collection or a trusty pen from that catch-all kitchen drawer.

  • Consider using colors that represent how you felt as you approached the front door. Include people you interacted with and when you’re done, write one sentence describing what your picture represents.
  • Take a photo and upload it to you favorite social media site like Twitter, Facebook or Instragram and use the hashtag #StartTheArts.

The National Standards for Family-School Partnerships provide a framework for strengthening family engagement programs to focus on what parents, schools and communities can do together to support student success. Welcoming All Families into the school community is the first of the six standards.

When schools are successful in meeting this standard, families are active participants in the life of the school, and feel welcomed, valued and connected to each other, to school staff, and to what students are learning and doing in class. When families walk into the school building, they should feel it’s a place where they belong. Also, all of the school policies and programs should reflect, respect and value the diversity of the families in the community.

The arts — and the National PTA Reflections program, in particular — can be a valuable tool for building stronger partnerships in your school community and meeting the Standard for Welcoming All Families.

#StartTheArts with PTA Reflections and bring families together during National Arts in Education Week — the second full week in September. Learn more about PTA Start the Arts Week and use the Reflections Toolkit to get started today.

Read more to learn about each of the National Standards for Family-School Partnerships and the steps you can take with PTA Reflections to meet them. Also, consider enrolling in the National PTA School of Excellence program to gain new ways to engage all families in each of the standards. National PTA School of Excellence is a recognition program that supports and celebrates partnerships between PTAs and schools to enrich the educational experience and overall well-being for all students. Contact or call (800)307-4782 for more info.

First in a series of blog posts co-authored by National PTA’s Senior Manager of Family Engagement Sherri Wilson & Manager of Arts in Education Ethan Clark.

Show Your Support for Future Ready Districts

Copyright 2012 Lifetouch National School Studios IncThe Office of Educational Technology recently launched the Future Ready District Pledge, which establishes a framework for districts to achieve the goals laid out in President Obama’s ConnectED Initiative and commits districts to move as quickly as possible toward our shared vision of preparing students for success in college, careers and citizenship. Goals of the pledge include upgrading broadband and high-speed wireless connectivity, providing access to educational devices and digital content, and preparing teachers to use technology effectively to improve student learning.

Do you want Future Ready Schools? Here are a few ways you can help:

1. Please visit to read and sign the pledge!

2. Challenge superintendents and others in your network to sign the Future Ready District Pledge.

3. Share the Future Ready District Pledge via social media. You can use the message below or write your own.

Sample Tweet:

I signed the #FutureReady District Pledge and you should too! Visit to read & sign the pledge! @OfficeofEdTech

Matthew L. Evans is an advocacy coordinator for National PTA.

How Ben’s Beginners Cooking Contest Helped My School

DiningTogether_small_150dpi[1]Midtown West is almost an oxymoron: we’re a tight-knit community smack dab in the center of the universe, or as the world would say, Times Square in New York City. As principal of this amazing school, I never could have imagined what happened when I crossed paths with one of our students.

Almost a year ago now, I had a bright, young student named Arden come to me and announce that she had entered a national cooking contest sponsored by the Uncle Ben’s® Brand with her family.  She and her parents let me know that the prize included a makeover for our school cafeteria. But in order for her to be in the running, she needed the support of Midtown West. She needed us to vote for her video. Curious about this contest, I did some research and was impressed by the mission: The Ben’s Beginners™ Cooking Contest is a national program that encourages parents to get their children in the kitchen to teach them about cooking and healthy eating habits.

Our school, led by Arden and her family, spread the word about voting for her video. Our community responded by supporting her with its online votes and social media outreach. During our weekly community meeting, where students, parents, teachers and the PTA gather, Arden was able to really rally people behind her for the possibility of improving the school. When the school found out Arden was a finalist, the community was overjoyed. Because of her advancement in the contest, we knew Midtown West had secured at least $10,000 to update our cafeteria and were in the running for the grand prize of $30,000.

In the end, Arden was one of two runner-up contestants to the Ben’s Beginners™ contest and Midtown West received $10,000 we so desperately needed for our elementary school kitchen. Because of the Uncle Ben’s® Brand, we are using the prize money to remodel a teaching kitchen and cafeteria area by updating all appliances and making plumbing available to the kitchen. The prize money will allow not only a safer cooking environment, but also an opportunity for our students to cook healthier meals and be more hands-on. Her simple entry into the contest will spread the love of cooking to thousands more Midtown West students.

In the end, what started as a fun way to rally our community together will end up educating many children for years to come. All schools and PTAs should encourage participation in the Ben’s Beginners™ Cooking Contest to their students and parents. At the very least, families will have joined together for a night of fun in the kitchen, and your school may even win a cafeteria makeover.


Ryan Bourke is the principal at New York City school, Midtown West which was a 2013 Runner up in the Ben’s Beginners™ Cooking Contest.