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In Montana, one in six kids struggle every day with hunger. Hamilton High School freshman Sidney DeLong is determined to do something about that.

On Tuesday, she hosted a cooking competition to bring awareness to the issue in a very simple and direct manner.

DeLong recruited about 20 of her classmates to take part in a cooking competition that demonstrated just how easy it is to create a healthy meal from ingredients easily obtained from the food bank or a local grocery store.

The four teams that competed Tuesday were given two ingredients and access to some vegetables and spices that they could use to create a dish that would cost less than $10 and offer several servings.

“I wanted to show how easy it was to make a meal that was both cheap and really healthy,” DeLong said.

With help from Ravalli County Commissioner Jeff Burrows and Hamilton Mayor Dominic Farrenkopf, plus a group of Hamilton High School teachers, the teams made a variety of different dishes that were judged later by school officials. The winning team was presented with a $40 gift card. Other participants went home with gift bag.

Gov. Steve Bullock sent a letter welcoming everyone to DeLong’s cooking competition, which brought awareness to Fight Childhood Hunger Week.

“When kids are hungry, they have trouble focusing in school and achieving their full potential,” Bullock wrote. “Kids who are unable to succeed in school are more likely to struggle throughout their lives. The effects of hunger are long term and generational.”

DeLong is a member of the Youth Leadership Council, which is spearheading an effort to fight childhood hunger.

“As a member of the Youth Leadership Council, Sidney is helping families put food on the table,” Bullock wrote. “Young people like Sidney see the effects of hunger in the classroom firsthand and are uniquely positioned to help their peers.”

Those efforts are paying off.

Montana was recently recognized as having the largest increase in school breakfast participation in the country, wrote Bullock. In the past four years, the number of kids struggling with hunger has dropped from 20 percent to 17 percent.

“While we’re making great gains, we still have lots of work to do,” Bullock wrote. “With Sidney’s leadership, Hamilton is doing your part to make sure kids here and across Big Sky Country have access to healthy food.”

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