Applauding Healthy School Food in Chicago – And Creative Student Chefs

November 07, 2007

by Rochelle Davis, HSC Founding Executive Director

It was truly a delight to meet the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) culinary students and teachers who participated in the healthy cooking contest at Cooking up Change, HSC’s annual benefit, and to check out the dishes they entered in the “healthy school lunch” category of the contest.

The category was filled with delicious, healthy meals:  a whole wheat chicken burrito with Mexican rice, roasted sweet potato soup with southern herb greens and smoked turkey, and the winning lunch, red beans and rice with smothered apples and candied carrots.

This was even more exciting because the students’ work to create healthy school lunches is part of a much larger school food transformation at CPS.

The school meals that students prepared met the “Balanced Choices” nutrition guidelines designed by CPS partner Chartwells-Thompson to set a high standard of health and nutrition for school meals. CPS high school students can choose a meal prepared to meet these guidelines every day – and in Jan., they will be able to choose the school meal designed by their peers when the winning lunch is served throughout CPS high schools.

In the past year, CPS food service has made other impressive changes, adding more fruits and vegetables while removing trans fats and whole milk. Deep fryers are no longer used by any elementary schools in the district or by 55 high schools, and the fryers will not be used in any CPS schools by 2009.

These changes will make a very real difference for the hundreds of thousands of children who consume the majority of their daily calories at school, and are even more impressive when I consider that CPS serves nearly 72 million school meals each year for less than a dollar per meal for food.

Involving students in a dialog about making healthy eating choices – as with the healthy cooking contest – will make the changes more relevant and will help pave the way for success.  I applaud CPS for taking these impressive steps for students’ health.