Uncle Ben's has named Seven-year-old Claire Noles and her mother Rachel of Boaz, AL, the grand prize winners of the Ben’s Beginners Cooking Contest, which was created to help children make healthier eating choices by getting in the kitchen at an early age.

Three finalists were selected from nearly 1,000 entrants (grades kindergarten-8th) who submitted videos of themselves and their families preparing a rice-based dish as part of the second annual cooking contest. Claire was selected as the grand prize winner and awarded with a $15,000 cash prize, two appearances on the Rachael Ray Show and a $30,000 cafeteria makeover for Corley Elementary School in Boaz, where she is a second grader.

“Parents are instrumental in encouraging their children to make healthy choices, but we can’t forget that a majority of a child’s day is spent in school where behaviors are being learned and shaped,” says Tim Snyder, vice president of sales & marketing for Uncle Ben's parent Mars Food US. “The Ben’s Beginners Cooking Contest strives to inspire healthier beginnings and improving a school’s cafeteria is one way we can help support nutrition and education.”

Corley Elementary is a satellite facility and does not have a kitchen, but it has a full size cafeteria that also serves as the school’s auditorium. Student meals are prepared at a production kitchen at another school in the district and transported over.

“We at Boaz City Schools are so excited and pleased for Claire and Corley Elementary to win this contest,” says Brandy Tarvin, child nutrition program director for Boaz City Schools. “We are certainly proud of Claire and how well she has represented our school system. We are thankful for this generous prize and know that the present and future students of Corley Elementary will benefit from Uncle Ben's generosity and Claire's hard work and determination. We are also thankful for the support from our city of Boaz and the surrounding communities who also very graciously supported Claire and Boaz City School District. As the child nutrition program director, I am so grateful for this opportunity to make improvements to our facility/program and to benefit the children of Boaz.”

In addition to Claire, two runners up –the Williams family of Alpharetta, GA, and the Wolfe family of New York City—each received$5,000 cash and a $10,000 cafeteria makeover for their child’s school.Corley Elementary School celebrated their hometown hero by hosting an assembly which included a check presentation and a cooking demonstration in which Claire prepared her winning recipe, Chicken and Rice Supreme, for state, county and city  officials, community leaders, and more than 1,500 students and classmates.