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From left, Oklahoma 4-H members Levi Wagner, Stanton Hooper and Keaston Gonzalez, from Cotton County, present their prepared dish before a panel of judges before being selected to represent the state at nationals. (Photo by Kirsten Hollansworth)

Food Fight: FAPC hosts Oklahoma 4-H Food Showdown

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Media Contact: Kirsten Hollansworth | Communications Graduate Student | 405-744-0442 |

Oklahoma State University’s Robert M. Kerr Food and Agricultural Products Center staff recently hosted the Oklahoma 4-H Food Showdown on July 19 in which teams of two or three 4-H members created their own dishes using four secret ingredients, which were revealed at the start of the competition.

Each year, FAPC hosts the 4-H Food Showdown in their pilot plant facilities and provides resources for the event to give back to Oklahoma 4-H members, the next generation of food innovators. The staff at FAPC work behind the scenes to create a successful event.

The 4-H Food Showdown has been a collaborative program between the Oklahoma 4-H Youth Development program and FAPC for the past 12 years and was created to appeal to youth interest, said Cathy Allen, Oklahoma 4-H curriculum specialist.

“The program has evolved and now counties and clubs are hosting 4-H Food Showdown contests,” Allen said. “There are district qualifiers where youth can compete at the county level, advance to the district and two teams from each district come to the state contest hosted at FAPC.”

This project teaches many things, including teamwork, communication, creativity and nutritional information, she said.

“The teams of 4-H members are given four secret ingredients that remain a mystery until they start the competition and then are allowed to use kitchen staples in the provided common pantry,” Allen said. “We really want kids or families to use what resources they have at home.”

The four secret ingredients were polenta, strawberries, parmesan cheese along with chicken and apple sausage.

Common pantry items are household staples including, flour, sugar, eggs and maple syrup. By using those items from the common pantry and the four secret ingredients, teams prepared a main dish.

The teams had 40 minutes to complete their dishes before giving a five-minute presentation on the nutritional facts and food and kitchen safety methods they used in preparing their dishes, she said.

Kaden Kelly, Muskogee County 4-H member, said his favorite part of the event was working with his two teammates.

“My whole family had been involved in 4-H, and it had helped them throughout their lives,” Kelly said. “After I got involved in 4-H, I never really stopped because I enjoy all the events and competitions.”

Emily Lewis, Muskogee County 4-H member, said the most enjoyable part was getting to meet new people.

“I’m from a small town so it’s exciting to be around like-minded people,” Lewis said. “I found out I can make friends really easily, and it’s a great leadership experience that will help me with a job later on.”

Katie Smithson, Muskogee County 4-H member, described the 4-H Food Showdown as an adrenaline rush that presented an uplifting challenge.

“Since I’m moving schools, I enjoy connecting with my friends through 4-H,” Smithson said. “I plan to continue to get more involved with Oklahoma 4-H as much as possible.”

After completing the competition, Cotton County placed first and will be representing Oklahoma 4-H at the National 4-H Food Challenge at the Texas State Fair on Sept. 28. Lincoln County placed second and Garfield County placed third.

FAPC, a part of OSU’s Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, helps to discover, develop and deliver technical and business information that will stimulate and support the growth of value-added food and agricultural products and processing in Oklahoma.

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