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A tasty treat from Edison team takes top prize in national contest

Edison Elementary School's first entry in an ongoing national contest to improve nutrition and physical activity at schools can be summed up in two phrases:

Tastes good. Prize-winning.

A team from the school, part of the Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda School District, recently won $2,500 for its submission in the cooking show challenge of "Fuel Up to Play 60." Their creation was a parfait consisting of low-fat graham cracker crumbs, fresh fruit and low-fat vanilla yogurt.

"This is our first event," said Nicole Zugelder, a physical education teacher and program adviser who led the "Brain Booster" cooking team. "We don't even know what the possibilities are."

Zugelder and the rest of the team -- physical education teacher Tony Mermigas, cook manager MaryLou Rizzo and students Matthew Quinn and Gracelyn Rife -- will be honored Friday in a ceremony at the Grayton Road school, where the check will be presented.

"The money's to be used to enhance our wellness program and our physical education curriculum," Zugelder said.

"Fuel Up to Play 60" is a program sponsored by the National Dairy Council and the National Football League. Its efforts toward nutrition and fitness are intended to complement an academics-focused school environment.

"I wanted to tie it to literacy," Zugelder said.

The book "The Very Hungry Caterpillar," by Eric Carle, was the inspiration for the recipe, which was named "The Hungry Caterpillar Snack Cup." The apples, pears, strawberries and oranges in the recipe are among the foods the caterpillar consumes on his way to becoming a butterfly.

Zugelder said she learned in late November that Edison's recipe, as well as recipes submitted by schools in the Sweet Home and Cleveland Hill school districts, made the cut to proceed to the cooking show challenge.

Produced by the American Dairy Association and Dairy Council, the video was shot in December in the kitchen at Tops International in Amherst. "We only practiced one time," Zugelder said.

The two students -- Gracelyn, a fifth-grader, and Matthew, a fourth-grader -- landed their roles based on their performance in school and their ease in front of a camera.

In the video, Matt takes the caterpillar connection a step farther: He wears a wig with antennae bouncing above the curls.

"They called us a couple of weeks later and said we won," Zugelder said.

The video, which will be shown during Friday's celebration, is on the school's website:

The rest of the students at Edison Elementary also will get an opportunity to sample "The Hungry Caterpillar Snack Cup."

"We are going to make it for our field days for the end of the year," said Rizzo, whom students call Miss MaryLou. "They always have a snack break."

This week, the team gathered to re-create its demonstration for The Buffalo News. When they were through, Gracelyn and Matt eagerly devoured the finished product.

"It's so good," Gracelyn said. "I like the graham crackers, strawberries "

"Delicious," Matt said.