Tonawanda News

Local News

October 13, 2013

Cooking for a cafeteria

Tonawanda News — Ask Edward Sampson if he’s a picky eater, and the Fletcher Elementary School fifth-grader laughs right out loud.

“That’s what my mom says,” he said with a grin.

Edward may be picky, but there’s at least one recipe he likes a lot. And the Sampson family of the City of Tonawanda hopes a lot of other people like it as well — because if they do, it could have a big payoff for Edward, his classmates and his school.

It started when Mandy Sampson, Edward’s mom and health and wellness chairperson of the Niagara Region PTA, heard about the Uncle Ben’s “Ben’s Beginners” cooking contest and thought it would be a great opportunity for the family to work together on a recipe.

“We enjoy cooking anyway. I thought, ‘Why not? Let’s try this,’” she said. The Sampsons developed a rice-based, kid-friendly recipe for “chicken and veggie surprise,” then visited the Fletcher cafeteria to film a video of Edward — who donned a chef’s hat for the occasion — and his mother creating their dish for the contest.

Now, the Sampson’s video is online at, part of a contest to win a $30,000 cafeteria makeover for Fletcher Elementary, as well as a prize for the family.

Mandy Sampson, who also works as a substitute teacher assistant, clerical worker and lunch lady at the school, said that Fletcher has what is likely the smallest cafeteria in the district. The space, once a pair of classrooms, is “wall-to-wall kids” during lunch periods and it can be difficult to keep everyone in view, she said.

The entire family took part: Mandy and Edward Sampson appearing in the video, older son William, 13, making a cameo and doing the editing, and father Jon doing the filming. Now they’re spreading the word, with notices at all the school buildings and a link on the City of Tonawanda website.

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