ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. - The APG North (Aberdeen) youth center hosted the annual 4-H Meal Appeal cooking contest April 13.

Eight teams from Harford County were challenged to plan a menu that meets the current nutritional guide published by the by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, called MyPlate. MyPlate is divided into sections of approximately 30 percent grains, 30 percent vegetables, 20 percent fruits and 20 percent protein, accompanied by a smaller circle representing dairy, such as a glass of low-fat/nonfat milk or a yogurt cup.

Teams were asked to come up with a meal theme, a presentation, and demonstrate cooking one of the menu items for two judges.

The APG North team, the Army Meal Appeal Heroes with Heart made a pudding fruit salad for the judges. Their theme was "Spring in with Color and Fresh Food." Other menu items were corn on the cob, grilled vegetables and chicken.

Participants were Chyann Benjamin, 10, Tatyana Sanchez, 9, Marina Bennett, 11, and Taryn Giles, 10.

"We made a healthy, refreshing, colorful snack for the spring," Sanchez said about the pudding fruit salad.

The APG North team, led by center employees Monica Boyd and Glenda Weaver, meet every other Tuesday.

The APG South team theme was "Italian Sensation." They made a Caesar salad with grilled chicken for the judges. Other menu items included spaghetti and tomato sauce, bread and milk.

Participants were Shyann Stolo, 10, Samantha Devorak, 12, Carlos Clavijo, 6 and Iliana Clavijo, 8. The club, led by Program Assistant Agnes Burke, meets every Thursday after school.

Karen Johnson, the APG North youth center's 4-H program manager, said that there are many aspects to 4-H Clubs.

"A common misconception is that 4-H is all about farming," she said.

Johnson said that the club gives children, kindergarten through high school, a chance to explore interests and life skills like cooking, gardening, art, science and more.

For instance, the 4-H Meal Appeal contest teaches the children about teamwork, organization, food preparation, hygiene, nutrition, leadership and communication skills.

Johnson added that she wanted to have the competition at the center to strengthen the club's relationship with the community.

"I wanted to show others that they can participate in programs on post," Johnson said. "I would like to do more programs with Harford County 4-H in the future."

Johnson thanked the APG North youth center staff, Lauren Hyman, Kim Bryant and Boyd for their dedication in making sure the event ran smoothly.