CPS + Cooking up Change: A Q&A with Leslie Fowler

October 28, 2015

Cooking up Change Chicago is tomorrow! In preparation, we’re speaking with some of the invaluable leaders who make this program happen every year. Today, we’re featuring Leslie Fowler, Director of Nutritional Support Services at Chicago Public Schools (CPS). Under her leadership, CPS serves 75 million meals to 400,000 students each year.

Why is participating in Cooking up Change important for CPS?
Cooking up Change provides a creative outlet for students while also giving them an opportunity to meet the challenge of creating and executing a recipe which meets all of the USDA and CPS requirements for school meals. With almost 90 percent of the CPS student population eligible for free and reduced lunches, we recognize the importance of both the nutritional value and taste of school meals.

How does Cooking up Change benefit CPS student chefs?
Participating in Cooking up Change increases student knowledge of the food service industry, and provides students an opportunity to apply their skills developed from CPS Career Technical Education Culinary Arts program in a familiar school dining center. Cooking up Change features student chefs as they gain insight to purchasing meals within a budget, nutrition guidelines and CPS’ commitment to serving nutritious meals integrating local produce and protein.

Why is it important to have student voices in the school food conversation?
CPS and Cooking up Change empower students to advocate for themselves, their peers and their future health. The competition allows student voices to be heard in the school meal conversation on a district and national level. Student meal creations provide information about what students would like to see served at their schools and are featured on the school menu as a special event throughout the school year in all CPS dining centers.

Why are you looking forward to Cooking up Change this year?
Each year the students bring unique recipes to the table and it is always interesting to see what is presented. I’m looking forward to tasting each school’s creation and planning to showcase the winning school’s meal for all CPS students!
Healthy Schools Campaign thanks Leslie for her leadership and support of Cooking up Change. This event would not be possible with her.

If you’re in Chicago, please join us on Oct. 29 to listen to what these talented young chefs have to say about healthy school food and taste their delicious meals. All proceeds from the event go toward our mission to improve school and student health in Chicago and across the country. If you are from outside of Chicago or cannot attend, you can make a donation or enter the grand raffle.

The Chicago competition is just the beginning of an incredible nationwide contest. The winning team from Chicago will join other winning teams from across the country when they compete at the Cooking up Change National Finals in Washington, D.C., next June. We’ll announce the full Cooking up Change 2015-2016 schedule soon!

We couldn’t put on such a great contest every year without the support of our generous sponsors: Presenting sponsor, Aramark; Patron sponsor, Aetna; Hero sponsor, Sammons Financial Group; Champion sponsors School Health Corporation and Whole Foods Market; Official Culinary Partner, James Beard Foundation; Official Travel Partner, Southwest; and National Silver Sponsor,American Federation of Teachers.