Lezlie Sterling / lsterling@sacbee.com

Marcos Hernandez holds up sweet potatoes, which were judged by schoolchildren on Saturday as Veggie of the Year.

Sacramento event names sweet potato "Veggie of the Year"

Published: Sunday, Sep. 8, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 3B
Last Modified: Sunday, Sep. 8, 2013 - 12:15 am

The verdict is in, and the news officially released Saturday: The Veggie of the Year, according to the votes of 120 finicky student judges at the Capitol Heights Academy, is the sweet potato.

Word is, the competition was close. On Wednesday, as the taste test was held at the Oak Park school, chef Kurt Spataro of Paragary Restaurant Group pushed his lightly sweetened kale dish hard. Kale came in a close second when the results were announced, a surprising finish for the leafy green.

The other three contenders in the Veggie of the Year contest, judged by the kindergartners through fifth-graders, fell short of contention: Avocado, tomato and beet.

Amber Stott, executive director of the California Food Literacy Center, expressed mock relief Saturday that the winner wasn't actually a fruit, as are the tomato and avocado, technically.

"At least the Veggie of the Year is a vegetable," she said, laughing. A juggler stepped up to show off the tricks of his trade – juggling sweet potatoes.

The announcement was made at the second annual Food Literacy Fair, held at the Midtown Farmers Market.

Stott received recognition for her work in the past year teaching 2,400 schoolchildren about fresh produce. The honor came from Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, county Supervisor Phil Serna and city Councilman Steve Cohn, who noted it wasn't long ago that city ordinances prohibited residents from turning their front yards into vegetable gardens.

About 60 local restaurants are participating in the EatSmart fundraising campaign on behalf of the California Food Literacy Center, raising $1 or more from each table served. The funds will allow the hiring of a volunteer coordinator and another instructor for the group.

Stott won a Food Revolution Hero award from the nationally known Chef Jamie Oliver Foundation for her work in introducing fresh produce to economically disadvantaged kids.

Call The Bee's Cynthia H. Craft, (916) 321-1270.

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