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Our Illinois 4-H Story

Who will be the next 4-H chef? Challenge tests food prep knowledge

Sometimes, it's hard enough just following a step-by-step recipe. Now, imagine you've been given a basket of ingredients and told to "make something." That's what teens in this year's Illinois 4-H Food Challenge pilot program faced. Several counties are holding mini competitions where youth demonstrate their mastery of food preparation.

In a recent central Illinois challenge event, each team had to create a main dish using the "mystery ingredients" in their basket and a few pantry items –without the use of recipes, notes or assistance from others—in 40 minutes. Each team also gave a short presentation to a panel of judges answering questions about the dish they created. The food was judged on appearance, quality, and the presentation of the product. Additionally, each team was rated on their food knowledge, food preparation skills, food safety skills, and serving size knowledge.

Anamieka Putz, Rebekah Putz and Rhianna Cyr, members of the Chebanse Little Ducks 4-H Club in Iroquois County, practiced for five weeks with their mentor. Their "five-alarm tacos" took top honors in the Monticello Challenge. Funding for the 4-H Food Challenge program is provided by the Illinois 4-H Foundation. Thanks to the Piatt County Journal Republican for a great write-up.


Judy Mae Bingman, University of Illinois Extension Marketing and Communications Manager

Judy uses powerful words and photography to tell the Extension story. She is a skilled communication strategist and storyteller with demonstrated success in building teams and creating strong organizational brand identities that deepen Extension’s impact among key audiences, build brand loyalty, strengthen employee talent, and expand public engagement. She is a frequent conference presenter at the National Association of Extension 4-H Agents Conference and helps Extension staff across the nation tell compelling stories.