Fresh Bread and a Fresh Take on School Food

January 09, 2012

By Mark Bishop, HSC vice president of policy and communications

One morning recently, I walked into my son’s school expecting it to smell like baking chicken — it was a fresh chicken day after all. But to my surprise, it actually smelled like freshly baked bread. What was going on?

The school kitchen manager straightened me out. It turns out that the new nutrition standards in Chicago Public Schools allow for dessert one time per week. This year, they’ve started offering freshly baked sweet breads as part of this dessert option. These breads meet the nutrition requirements of the HealthierUS School Challenge. But what stood out to me the most was the simple fact that they are baked fresh in the school.

The kitchen manager told me that they were baking banana bread that morning. She said: “It’s delicious! I tasted a piece earlier and the kids are going to love it!” Other breads they are baking throughout the year include apple, blueberry, sweet potato, banana nut and carrot breads.

Transforming the school food environment involves so many challenges. As we think about sensible nutrition requirements, fresher vegetables and clean proteins, we can’t forget about the overall experience and the messages it sends. We want to get back to real food — food that is less processed, food that incorporates more cooking. Baking a treat once a week, filling the air with the aroma of fresh bread, creates an environment of food that we care about. It sends a subtle but important message and can make a real different in how we approach our meals.