4-H Food Preparation Project

The goal of this project is to provide youth with the opportunity to learn how to create healthy meals that are also delicious, budget-friendly, and eye-appealing.

Within each division, there are three categories that can be entered. Each category will be judged separately, within each division. These categories include:

  • Main Course
  • Vegetable Dish, Including Salads
  • Dessert

Members will bring their prepared food and submit their completed Food Preparation Record Sheet at check-in time. Parents and other helpers are restricted from the kitchen area while 4-H’ers prepare their exhibits at the open judging. The exhibit must be prepared and exhibited by the 4-H member. The food in this project is to be perishable and cannot be something that could be exhibited in the traditional Foods project. Food will be judged and returned to the member. No food will be exhibited at the fair. Members will be encouraged to use the USDA’s My Plate when creating their menus. This will be judged as part of the project on the Food Preparation Record Sheet. Youth will also be encouraged to take into consideration food costs, nutrition, and any dietary concerns or restrictions in their families. They will keep a Meal Journal on their Food Preparation Record Sheet that will also be judged as part of the project.

Exhibit Class Guidelines

Beginner (grades 3-5): plan and prepare their families three meals

Intermediate (grades 6-8): will plan and prepare their families six meals

Advanced (grades 9-12): will plan and prepare their families nine meals


Purdue Extension Food Safety Policy (revised 10/2020)

For Food Competitions: Fillings, frostings, glazes, and meringues are not permitted to contain cream cheese, sour cream, heavy cream, or whipped cream if they are not fully cooked/baked. These items are allowed as ingredients in food products IF the final product is cooked/baked. Additionally, raw milk, raw milk products or uncooked eggs/egg whites are not permitted. Eggs/egg whites that have been cooked to 160'F (i.e. pasteurized or included as part of a batter and baked) are acceptable. No home- canned fruits, vegetables, or meats are permitted as ingredients in food products.

Fresh-cut, uncooked, fruits and/or vegetables are not permitted to be used in food products or used as garnishes for the product. Foods should be transported to the competition in a way that minimizes contamination and maintains the quality of the food (i.e. foods that are judged as frozen should remain frozen at all times).

Recipes must be provided that identifies all ingredients that were used in each part of the product. Any ingredient that could be a potential allergen must be clearly identified. Potential food allergens include, but are not limited to, milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, crustacean shellfish, wheat, soy and sesame.

Each food product must be labeled with the following information:

  • Name
  • Address (4-H member information can be taked directly from enrollment if needed)
  • Contact Information (phone and/or email address; 4-H member information can be taked directly from enrollment if needed)
  • Date the food was made

Contestants should carefully wash their hands and make sure that their hands do not have any open cuts before preparing foods. If cuts are present, the wound should be bandaged and a single use food service glove worn on the hand during all stages of food production. Contestants should not be preparing food exhibits for competition within 48 hours of recovering from any illness. People experiencing symptoms of vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and/or jaundice should not be allowed to prepare food.

Judges and individuals who will consume products from county and/or state competitions should be informed that they are at risk for foodborne illness since the established policy cannot guarantee that an entry has been properly prepared or handled before, during or following the competition. The food products for competitions are home produced and processed and the production area is not inspected by the Indiana State Department of Health. Tasting of a food product is solely at the discretion of the judge and consumers. Judges are NOT to taste any home preserved foods such as low-acid or acidified foods like green beans, tomatoes or tomato products, jams/jellies/fruit preserves or fermented products produced in the home.

Baked food products may be from a boxed mix following the instructions, a boxed mix with added ingredients, or ingredients combined from scratch. Youth are to place their name, county and club on the
bottom side of their plate, pan or other container and the official entry tag provided will be placed with the

A completed recipe card is to be submitted with each exhibit. Recipe cards are for judging purposes only and will not be returned to the exhibitor. Laminating, wrapping the recipe card in plastic, or placing it in a clear plastic bag is optional. Since it is illegal in the State of Indiana for youth under the age of 21 to purchase or consume alcoholic beverages, 4-H members are to use recipes that do not include an alcoholic beverage as an ingredient. A suitable non-alcoholic or imitation product may be substituted.

Baked food products should be covered during transport and displayed on a paper or foam plate, or another type of disposable container. Pies, casseroles and other similar items are to be baked in a disposable pan. Cakes and sticky items may be displayed on a cardboard strong enough to support the item and covered in foil, plastic, wax paper, or similar substance.

Judges evaluating exhibits should recognize individual differences and creativity, therefore using information in this document as a guide rather than a requirement.