Mary Richardson-Lowry of Chicago Public Schools at Go for the Gold Launch: ‘The Foundation for Succe

September 02, 2010 | Written By:


Mary Richardson-Lowry addresses the crowd at the Go for the Gold launch.

At the August 17 launch of the Go for the Gold Campaign, several key leaders helped us kick off  this new initiative. We're proud to work with such tremendous supporters, including Mary Richardson-Lowry, President of the Chicago Public Schools Board of Education. HSC greatly appreciates the district’s commitment to promoting student health and improving nutritional standards for schools meals.

An excerpt of remarks from Mary Richardson-Lowry:

We are here for a very important cause — the health and well-being of our students.

CPS is committed to providing a world-class education for the students of Chicago and we know that there is a strong connection between healthful school food, physical activity and a student’s ability to learn and succeed in school.

In a school district where 86 percent of students are low-income and many young people receive the majority of their daily food intake at school, it is especially important for us to provide students with healthful meals.

Many of our students face the dual challenge of food insecurity and childhood obesity. We see a strong school nutrition program as a way of positively impacting both those conditions.

We are proud that one of our most famous alums, First Lady Michele Obama, is taking the lead on fighting childhood obesity through the her Let’s Move initiative.

But even before the First Lady championed this cause, CPS was at the forefront of bringing healthier foods to our schools. I am very pleased to announce that for the 2011 school year, we have significantly raised the nutrition standards for school food and developed the healthful, delicious recipes that you sampled for lunch today.

To develop the new standards, we convened a group of dietitians, school food operational experts and community partners. This group adopted the philosophy that the menu improvements needed to be far-reaching and sustainable. . .  sustainable so that they would be affordable and pleasing improvements for our students that we could continue to offer for many years to come.

Some of the highlights of the new standards include :

  • While vegetables are already offered daily, CPS will now offer a different vegetable every day, and increase dark green and orange and dark vegetables and limit starchy vegetables.
  • Where occasional whole grains are offered, there will now be a whole grain offering at lunch each day.
  • All menus contain zero trans fats.
  • No donuts or breakfast pastries will be on the menu and there is a prescribed standard for cereal that limits the amount of sugar it contains.

Healthy Schools Campaign was one of our key community partners in developing these new nutritional standards.

I am very pleased today to announce Go for the Gold, a new partnership between Chicago Public Schools, Healthy Schools Campaign, the USDA Midwest Office and Illinois State Board of Education.

Go for the Gold builds on the major advancements we made with our new nutrition standards and is a citywide partnership that will challenge and support Chicago public schools to meet the USDA’s HealthierUS School Challenge.

This challenge is one of the pillars of the First Lady’s Let’s Move Campaign and recognizes schools that make improvements to school food and nutrition education, and increase opportunities for physical activity and recess.

We support all of these changes and see them as key to creating an educational environment that promotes success and academic achievement. We also support the First Lady’s goal of reversing the childhood obesity epidemic that threatens so many children and adults in Chicago.

Go for the Gold also provides us the opportunity to highlight the individual success of schools that are already committed to health and wellness. Two years ago, Principal Jorge A. Ruiz became the new administrator for Eli Whitney Elementary School, and he quickly became a champion for making schools healthier places.

The dedicated parents who were already involved in school wellness initiatives welcomed his arrival. The school’s active wellness team, composed mostly of parents, researched wellness practices other schools were implementing and compiled a wish list and a set of reasons why their school should implement these practices.

Their list included: increasing breakfast consumption, creating an in-school daily exercise for all students, and increasing opportunities for the surrounding community to learn about being healthy.

Eli Whitney School is a great candidate to be a Go for the Gold school because it promotes student meal participation during the school day, promotes opportunities for physical activity for all students, and reinforces nutrition and health messages through multiple channels of communication.

The school wellness team and the principal worked hand in hand to accomplish these goals. Here are some examples of that:

  • The school implemented Breakfast in the Classroom, a program that provides a healthy in-classroom breakfast. Principal Ruiz noticed positive changes immediately after the program was implemented. Not only did school attendance increase, but so did students’ readiness to learn.
  • And Breakfast in the Classroom also took away the stigma many students felt in receiving free lunch. Teachers greatly applaud the program and say that taking those ten minutes to eat breakfast are well worth it because students behave better and are more alert to learn.
  • Every morning at 9 a.m. and in the afternoon as well, time for yoga is announced over the PA system. Students and teachers clear a space for themselves in the classroom and follow the yoga moves spoken over the PA system. For about a year now, yoga has become a daily ritual for students and staff, and the program has been very well received. Students and teachers are refocused and reenergized, making the school day a very productive one.
  • Eli Whitney has also found great community partners that strengthen the work the school is doing around health and wellness. The school helps organize health festivals where various community organizations promote their services and also celebrate healthy lifestyles. For example, many parents and community members began to attend St. Anthony Hospital’s healthy cooking classes and now regularly go to their workshop series on wellness.

Our wellness policy supports all of the components of Go for the Gold. Chicago Public Schools knows that physical activity during the school day increases the likelihood for children to be successful in school and strongly encourages schools to incorporate recess on a regular basis as part of the instructional day.

The district also makes available to all schools a robust health curriculum which includes nutrition education. The foundation for success is set.

Go for the Gold will engage the entire school community – from parents to teachers, students, principals, nonprofit organizations, businesses and the culinary community. CPS is committed to this partnership at every level of the organization and we are energized and excited to work with all of you to make it a reality.

We treasure all of our students and want them to lead long, healthy, and active lives.

Thank you to President Richardson-Lowry for taking part in this exciting launch!

To check out more photos from the launch event, click here.

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