Chicago Comes Together to Meet Michelle Obama’s Healthy Schools Challenge

June 03, 2010

By Rosa Ramirez

HSC is excited to see Chicago emerge as a national leader in promoting school food and fitness. Chicken-vegetable jambalaya, cucumber salad, locally grown corn, Cobb salad, hummus sandwiches, jalapeno cornbread, apples and oranges were among the many delicious and good-for-you items Chicago and Illinois elected officials taste-tested in May at the CPS School Food Premiere, held at McAuliffe Elementary School. Elected officials were invited to attend this lunch featuring school food that all students at Chicago Public Schools (CPS) will be offered for lunch at the start of 2010-2011 school year.

CPS’s exciting menu changes are part of a larger city-wide initiative, the Go for the Gold Campaign. In February of 2010, CPS declared its commitment to meeting Michelle Obama’s call to curb childhood obesity through the HealthierUS School Challenge by announcing a school meal program that will meet and exceed the Gold Standard of the challenge. This means CPS school meals will offer more whole grains, a different vegetable every day, more dark green or orange vegetables, and breakfast items that do not contain “dessert or candy-type” ingredients or flavors, among other changes. The revamped menus are one part of the challenge. Next, schools will need help increasing opportunities for physical education and physical activity as well as nutrition education — the cornerstones of the HealthierUS School Challenge.

Key leaders and organizations across Chicago are stepping forward to be part of the Go for the Gold Campaign, including local elected officials. Chicago Aldermen LaTasha Thomas (17th Ward) and Edward Burke (14th Ward) initiated a City Council resolution in support of healthy school food in April of 2010. Other supporters include Alderman Ariel Reboyares (30th Ward) who worked alongside McAuliffe Elementary Principal David Pino to help re-introduce recess back into the school day by simplifying the rezoning process and other hurdles. Additionally, Alderman Rey Colón (35th Ward) has been instrumental in creating health-promoting urban spaces and access to healthy, affordable food in his ward with bikeways and farmers markets in the neighborhood.

With city-level support, district-wide school food and recess initiatives, the hard work of local civic and political leaders and support for school wellness from the White House and Congress, Chicago is coming together to meet the challenge of providing healthy school environments for all children. To learn more about the Go for the Gold Campaign, and how you can participate, click here.

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