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(Enlarge) Sgts. 1st Class Ron Seymore and Mary Mittlesteadt join Mark Furst, president and CEO of United Way of Central Maryland, to taste-test chicken nuggets cooked by students from Baltimore's Dunbar High School on May 31 at Stratford University. The two Soldiers from Headquarters and Headquarters Company helped judge the healthy cooking competition.

Sgts. 1st Class Mary Mittlesteadt and Ron Seymore stood over a plethora of chicken nuggets as 16 high-schoolers closely watched their expressions.

Mittlesteadt and Seymore, both from Headquarters and Headquarters Company, were two of four judges in a healthy food challenge held May 31 at Stratford University in Baltimore. Students from the city's Dunbar High School created a healthy alternative to fast-food chicken nuggets.

The challenge was sponsored by Stratford University and the Urbanite Project, a project that "calls for creative, innovative, non-traditional ideas that address one or more of the barriers to affordable, healthy food for Baltimore City residents living in neighborhood food deserts," according to its website.

Chef Todd Mohr of Stratford led the competition and instructed the students on the importance and benefits of eating healthy food, over fast-food. Healthy cooking is a daily emphasis at Stratford, said Keith Jones, a marketing specialist with the university.

"Each day in our culinary labs and classes, we strive to teach our students healthy cooking habits and techniques that will help make a difference in our communities," he said.

Mittlesteadt and Seymore attended the demonstration and healthy cooking challenge to support a healthy lifestyle like the one encouraged in the military.

"We're taught in the military to eat the right food groups -- use the pyramid -- and it's a lifestyle that we choose to stay healthy," Mittlesteadt said.

Seymore noted that people seem to be trained to eat fast-food because it is convenient and doesn't require them to actually cook the food themselves. It's important, he said, to encourage people to eat healthy at a young age.

"This was a great opportunity to see how quickly you actually can prepare something that's healthy, compared to sitting and waiting at a drive-through," Mittlesteadt said.

During the demonstration, Mohr taught the students to create chicken nuggets using natural chicken breasts, flour, eggs and panko bread crumbs. Students then formed three teams and tried to copy the recipe.

"It was very easy and simple; it wasn't time consuming for them," Seymore said of the recipe.

Although it was a basic recipe, Mohr encouraged participants to be more creative in the future, suggesting they use crushed fruit loops or rice crisps instead of bread crumbs.

"I like how he expanded on being able to add your own flair," Mittlesteadt said. "It definitely gave them the foundation."

After each team baked their chicken nuggets, judges sampled each group's and picked the best. Mittlesteadt and Seymore said they all tasted the same, and selected the winners based on uniformity.

"As a healthy eater, I eat things like this all the time," Mittlesteadt said. "This is how I cook on a daily basis. It was definitely up my alley."

In addition to supporting a healthy lifestyle, both Soldiers said they enjoyed the opportunity to interact and spend time with students in their area.

"It's not often we get away from desks and what we do on a day-to-day basis to hang out with our local students," Mittlesteadt said.

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