Education All Stars: 5th grader wins healthy eating challenge

VOXXI is dedicated to recognizing those working in the field of education for making a difference and those students setting the example for our future generation. For…
Education All Stars: 5th grader wins healthy eating challenge

Gabriel Medina, a 5th grader from Conchita Espinosa Academy, won the top prize for Florida in the 2014 Healthy Lunchtime Challenge, an event highly supported by First Lady Michelle Obama.(Conchita Espinosa Academy and Conservatory of the Arts/ Cassandra Jolliff)

VOXXI is dedicated to recognizing those working in the field of education for making a difference and those students setting the example for our future generation.

For most kids, eating fish and vegetables are in the same category: Yucky!

That’s not the case for Conchita Espinosa Academy fifth grader Gabriel Medina, who not only loves fish but recently had his recipe for “Fish Cartucho al Gabusho,” selected in the 2014 Healthy Lunchtime Challenge.

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As Florida’s winner in the competition, which included roughly 1,500 national entries, Medina and his mother will be headed to Washington to for a White House state dinner July 18 with President Obama and First Lady Obama.

“I think I won because my fish tasted really good, and I loved all the ingredients that I included in my recipe,” Medina, 10, told VOXXI. “I was very surprised because there were a lot of kids that participated in this challenge. I never thought they would pick me.”

In total, 54 children representing each state (including the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico) were chosen by a statewide panel of judges in the First Lady’s Healthy Lunchtime Challenge, which required an original recipe selected for nourishment and taste.

Regarding Medina’s love of fish, that started out of jealously.

“I don’t get why people dislike fish because I love it, it’s very tasty,” Medina said. “When I was younger I had an allergy to fish and two years ago I was no longer allergic. My family has always eaten fish, and I always wanted to try it. Once my allergy went away and I tasted it, it was perfect. I like to eat fish simple, just with olive oil and lemon.”

What’s even more amazing is that Medina is Conchita Espinosa Academy’s second consecutive Florida winner in the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge. In 2013, Nicole Medina (No relation to Gabriel) received the honor for her Summer Salmon recipe.

It turns out fifth grade teacher Noris Frades saw an educational opportunity. She told VOXXI the entire project started last year after kids were unhappy with the healthy lunches being served at school.

“We have always taught them not to focus on problems but to find solutions,” Frades said. “We had also just completed our fractions chapter, so I decided to teach them about healthy foods, proper servings and how what we learn in math today will be used in the future.”

From there, her students were immersed in creating healthy lunches for their school, keeping track of their calories and servings and finally creating a unique recipe of their own. That’s when Frades came across the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge. At the end of the project, the students had to write an essay about their recipe experience.

“The students and their parents also get to work on something together that is meaningful to the kids,” Frades said. “And, of course, the ultimate reward is if they win and get to visit The White House. I am very proud of the work that all of my students have put into their recipes.”

Gabriel Medina’s Fish Cartucho al Gabusho (one serving)


  • 15 inch sheet of parchment paper
  • 1/2 lemon, sliced
  • 5 ounces Mahi-mahi fillet
  • 1/2 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
  • Pinch of salt and pepper
  • 1 small gold potato chopped
  • 1/4 cup of cherry tomatoes chopped
  • 1/4 cup of mushrooms
  • 1 twig of parsley
  • 1 twig of oregano


Preheat oven to 400°F. Fold the paper in half and trim with scissors to make a heart shape when unfolded. On one half of the parchment heart place half the lemon slices, the fish, butter, and olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Pile on the remaining lemon, potatoes, tomatoes, mushrooms, parsley, and oregano.

Fold the parchment paper over and fold in the ends all around, creating a pouch that lies on its side. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes or until the fish is flaky and potatoes are tender. Serve with brown rice, if desired.

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