A local chef recently won a national challenge designed to help bring awareness to the need to improve school food.

Chef Mihoko Obunai is the winner of the Chef Ann Foundation (CAF) Real School Food Challenge: National Restaurant Edition. Along with 11 other chefs across the country, Obunai — head of the culinary program at Midtown International School in North Druid Hills — competed with her Japanese chicken curry rice recipe she created for Brush restaurant in downtown Decatur. For the competition, each dish had to follow USDA healthy meal guidelines and have a food cost around $1.25, the average budget for a school lunch in the U.S.

Obunai’s Japanese chicken curry rice was chosen as the winner of the five finalists at the StarChefs International Congress event based on its taste, presentation and overall points.

Chef Ann Foundation is a nonprofit dedicated to promoting healthier school food. This was the first national challenge and competition for the nonprofit.

“When chefs get excited about school food, it inspires thousands of school food professionals across the country,” said Mara Fleishman, CEO of the nonprofit. “This event has been so important for raising awareness about an issue that affects millions of today’s youth.”

Every day, 30 million children eat school lunch. With only $1.25 to spend per student meal, it becomes challenging for schools to serve real, healthy food that meets USDA guidelines, according to officials. CAF works to provide school communities with the tools, training, resources, and funding that enables them to serve scratch-cooked food using whole ingredients. CAF is currently celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2019, and the organization to date has reached more than 10,000 schools and 3 million kids with its healthy school programming.

According to Obunai, the nonprofit’s dedication to healthier food and redefining lunchroom environments is precisely why she got involved in the competition.

As part of the challenge, Brush placed the Japanese chicken curry rice on its menu for the month of October, with proceeds benefiting the nonprofit.

For more information, visit www.chefannfoundation.org.

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