UACES Facebook Arkansas 4-H teams win top spots at Mid-South 4-H Food Pantry Competition
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March 9. 2022

Arkansas 4-H teams win top spots at Mid-South 4-H Food Pantry Competition

By Rebekah Hall
U of A System Division of Agriculture 

Fast Facts:

  • Teams from Howard, Grant and Drew counties win top three spots
  • Competition challenges teams to create healthy meals with food pantry ingredients
  • Teams from Arkansas, Tennessee competed

(625 words)
(Newsrooms: With additional art at
(‘Klaesy Knoefler’ is c.q.)

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — In communities with limited access to food or grocery stores, it can be difficult to create a nutritious meal on a tight budget. Four Arkansas teams tested this skill — and emerged victorious — at the Mid-South 4-H Food Pantry Competition on Saturday, Feb. 26 as part of the 2022 Mid-South Farm and Gin Show.

KITCHEN STANDOUTS — Third place winners from Drew County, L to R: Chloe Russell,  Sy Lanthrip, Niah Russell. Photo by Arkansas 4-H. (Division of Agriculture photo.)

Held at the Renasant Convention Center in Memphis, Tennessee, the competition challenged teams to cook a healthy meal using three mystery ingredients commonly found in food pantries. The recipes they created were then given to food banks and pantries to help clients prepare their own meals.

Arkansas 4-H teams from Howard County, Grant County, and Drew County won the top three spots.

Amanda Welch, 4-H youth development specialist for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture and the competition’s coordinator, said the contest helped participants practice cooking skills and benefitted people in need.

“We’re really trying to use foods that are given out to food banks,” Welch said. “We’ve found that even though we’re giving out food to people in need, they’re often not able to actually utilize the food and don’t know how to cook it, or what to prepare with it. This competition also helps the kids come together, make a recipe, go over the food nutrition, the MyPlate food groups, food safety procedures, and work as a team.”

MyPlate is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s nutrition guide. It breaks down the serving sizes and requirements for each food group.

Welch said the competition combined the Tennessee 4-H Chopped Challenge and the Arkansas 4-H Food Challenge, bringing four teams from each state together. Teams had 45 minutes to prepare their respective dishes and five minutes to present the dishes to a panel of judges. The judges included Jennifer Biggs, food and dining editor for The Daily Memphian; Cathy Pope, president and CEO of Mid-South Food Bank; and Bert Smythe, owner of McEwen’s restaurant in Memphis.

Each team was required to use tortillas, canned chicken and a cup of Greek yogurt in their dishes, which they could supplement with additional ingredients from the competition pantry. Welch said all leftover pantry ingredients were brought back to Arkansas and donated to The Shack, a Little Rock organization that provides meals to people experiencing homelessness.

The first-place team from Howard County, Kylie Casto, Sarah Lamb, Christian Trombley, and Adelene Westfall, created “Diamond Chicken Dip” with tortilla chips. Lamb, Trombley, and Westfall won first place in the Senior Division of the Arkansas 4-H Food Challenge last year. They went on to compete in the 4-H National Food Challenge in September at the Texas State Fair, where they placed fifth.

Welch said she hopes the Mid-South 4-H Food Pantry Competition will become a larger event that helps participants practice for the state-level competition in August.  

“Especially because in our state competition, the parents and coaches don’t really get to watch the youth compete when they do their preparation and their presentation,” Welch said. “At Mid-South, they were able to stay in the room the whole time, so they’re better able to help coach over the summer to get them prepared for the state competition.”

Welch said she would also like to see the 4-H Food Pantry Competition grow to include all the states represented at the Mid-South Farm and Gin Show, which includes Louisiana, Mississippi and Missouri in addition to Arkansas and Tennessee.

A video compilation of the Mid-South 4-H Food Pantry Competition is available on the Mid-South Farm and Gin Show’s YouTube page at

First place winners: Howard County

Kylie Casto, Sarah Lamb, Christian Trombley, Adelene Westfall

Second place winners: Grant County

Klaesy Knoefler, Dylan Rogers, AJ Ruiz, Acacia Searcy

Third place winners: Drew County

Sy Lanthrip, Chloe Russell, Niah Russell.

To learn about extension programs in Arkansas, contact your local Cooperative Extension Service agent or visit Follow us on Twitter and Instagram at @AR_Extension. To learn more about Division of Agriculture research, visit the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station website: Follow on Twitter at @ArkAgResearch. To learn more about the Division of Agriculture, visit Follow us on Twitter at @AgInArk.

About the Division of Agriculture

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work within the nation’s historic land grant education system. 

The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities within the University of Arkansas System. It has offices in all 75 counties in Arkansas and faculty on five system campuses.  

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs to all eligible persons without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.

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Media Contact:
Rebekah Hall