Iron Chef: Salad Challenge

Iron Chef: Salad Challenge

FROM: Liz Lichtenberg | Alton Central School, Alton Bay, NH

TIME: 2 weeks (or more, if you grow your own veggies!)

CATEGORIES: Classroom, Community, Farms + Gardens, Local Purchasing, Projects + Activities, Curriculum, Fundraiser, Partnerships, Marketing + Promotion, Youth Leadership

This hands-on economics project shows healthy eating can be fun and tasty!  It encourages students to move beyond the iceberg, tomato, and cucumber salad, while promoting local eating and raising money for a community cause.


  • 1 educator
  • 1 local farmer
  • 1 local chef
  • 1 small business owner who makes a product (optional)
  • A variety of pre-sliced fruits, salad greens, vegetables, dried fruits, nuts (optional), olive oil, vinegars and other salad dressing ingredients, day-old bread (solicit donations and/or use school garden)
  • 1 price sheet per serving for all available salad items
  • Gloves and food safety equipment
  • 4 computers with access to the internet
  • 4 sets of tongs, spoons, forks, plates, and quart-size canning jars with lids
  • To-go salad and dressing containers (local restaurants may donate)


STEP 1: INTRODUCE THE CHALLENGE. Share the challenge with the students: create an attractive, well-balanced, and tasty salad that will impress your consumers and can be sold to raise money for a charitable cause. Divide the class into groups of 4-5 students.

STEP 2: ECONOMICS LESSON & BUSINESS OWNER VISIT. Teach students relevant economics vocabulary including marketable product, supply and demand, producer, consumer, and cost of goods, profits, and losses. Relate all vocabulary to the upcoming salad sale.  In a second class period, invite a local business owner to come talk to the students at the end of class to share about cost of goods and balancing consumer satisfaction and profit (optional).

STEP 3: TASTE TEST & CHEF VISIT. Invite a local chef to come in and talk about recipes and food safety, trends in salads and how to present and pack salads in an appealing way. In a second class period, conduct a taste test. Create sample salad plates for students with a variety of salad ingredients. "Sell" each salad ingredient before offering it to the students, describing the variety of flavors. Pass samples around. Encourage students to think about complementary flavors and contrasting textures and colors.

STEP 4: IRON CHEF HEAD TO HEAD CHALLENGE. Set up a table with a wide variety of salad ingredients (greens, nuts, seeds, fruits and veggies). Place measuring spoons in each item that represent a serving size. Give students time to create a “recipe” for their salads using the ingredients on hand and then "plate" their salad using ingredients from the ingredients table. Allow them to go online to find a salad dressing recipe. Then ask each group of students to “sell” their salad to the class, talking about flavors and textures, and receive feedback.

STEP 5: BUDGETING & FARMER VISIT. Invite a local farmer to talk to students about costs and availability. (Students can place an order for produce if school garden is not available or insufficient for demand). Give them a budget template to calculate the cost, given their recipe ingredients. Ask them to research and compare prices from previous years’ sales and from local restaurants. Then let students make adjustments to the recipe to maximize profits and match produce supply. Then have students price out the salad, setting an appropriate price.

STEP 6: SELL THOSE SALADS! Students market their products to school staff, students and families. Set a delivery date, take orders for a week or so prior to that date, and then order or gather all ingredients to fulfill salad orders. When orders are in, students make croutons and dressings, assemble salads in containers and deliver to those who ordered. Students collect money and distribute to charity or use for Farm to School programming. Celebrate a job well done and thank all who helped!


  • Students learn about the basics of economics using a hands-on, real-world example
  • Students taste a variety of fruits and vegetables
  • Students learn to prepare fresh, healthy, homemade meals that can be replicated in their homes
  • Students are connected with their local community through guest speakers
  • Students work cooperatively in groups to achieve a common goal
  • Students become invested in a community project and help support a local charity or Farm to School programming
  • Students learn about their local food economy
  • Students build leadership, responsibility and tangible business skills by developing, marketing and delivering a product


This program could be done as a community-wide event or fundraiser (like an “Empty Bowl dinner,” rather than just marketing to school staff and families. Rather than salad, students could make soups or other dishes from vegetables grown in the school garden or locally. Students can be involved months ahead of time to grow a majority of the vegetables. Visits to a local farm, restaurant and/or business could replace classroom visits. Additional classroom modules could include researching and calculating nutrition information, learning about writing and designing marketing materials, and drafting budgets for products and businesses. Thank you letters to donors and supporters are a must!


About Farm to School Recipes for Success

From garden parties to cooking contests, farm visits to STEM lessons, farm to school programs all over the Northeast are sizzling! The Farm to School Recipes for Success contest features the top ten best projects, activities, lessons and ideas chosen from dozens of “recipes” submitted by schools and programs in advance of the 2015 Farm to Institution Summit on April 7-9. This contest is sponsored by the Northeast Regional Steering Committee of the National Farm to School Network and is funded by a USDA Farm to School grant with support from the National Education Association. Visit to learn more.