Summit County challenge: How to make a meal for $10 |

Summit County challenge: How to make a meal for $10

Whitney Smith judges Colorado Mountain College culinary students' meals during Wednesday's Crockpot Challenge.
Elise Reuter |

Crockpots filled with steaming food lined the Summit County Community and Senior Center, as 11 Colorado Mountain College culinary students vied to have their dish recognized as the best. The competition came with a twist: The sum total of the ingredients could not exceed $10, the estimated allotment in food stamps for a meal for a family of five.

“We were looking at, if you have a family of five, how do you feed that family?” said Lorie Williams, the community center’s manager. “We were concerned that the community didn’t understand how challenging it is for people to afford meals.”

Last Wednesday’s “Crockpot Challenge” was a test drive: a smaller version of a fundraiser planned for National Food Day on Oct. 24. For that event, the community center will serve a plated meal for $25, or $20 for those who bring food donations for the Family and Intercultural Resource Center food bank.

Williams plans to give about 25 percent of the funds to Mountain Meals on Wheels, which delivered 2,500 meals last year and expects demand to increase this year. The remainder of the proceeds will go to FIRC and the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program to create a cookbook featuring competitors’ recipes.

“We just want to raise awareness that we have families living off these resources in Summit County,” said Whitney Smith, a CMC professor and WIC director. “Lots of Meals on Wheels folks are home-bound, with no income, and can’t afford the meals. We get grants for the cost.”

CMC culinary students found that the budget restrictions posed a moderate challenge.

“Most meals cost $15 to $20,” said first-year student Hannah Turner. “For a while it was really hard. I just ran around the store looking for ideas until I got help from a friend, who gave me the idea of chicken noodle soup.”

Alex Garcia, a third-year student, said she struggled to include organic ingredients in her vegetable stew.

“I usually like to buy organic and you can’t really with this challenge,” Garcia said. “I substituted chicken for organic, tri-colored beans. So I managed to get a few organic ingredients in there.”


Dishes were judged on taste, presentation, nutrition and creativity. Williams said one challenge many families face is limiting sodium and sugar in their meals. Salt is often added to canned goods, and most canned or processed foods contain some amount of sugar.

For October’s event, competitors will be divided into two categories: community members, for anyone who wants to register, and professionals, putting culinary students head-to-head against local chefs.

The event will be held at the Community and Senior Center, and sponsored by the Physical Activity and Nutrition Team of the Summit (PANTS), FIRC, WIC and Meals on Wheels. This will be the event’s first year in Summit County.

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