Louise Esaian of Chicago Public Schools: ‘We Are Ready to Do Our Part’

April 15, 2010

Louise-blog In March, students from Tilden Career Academy High School in Chicago presented their healthy, kid-pleasing school lunch to a crowd of supporters in Washington, DC as part of our Cooking Up Change day of action. This is the third in our series of posts about the remarks made that day. See remarks from Cooking up Change national honorary co-chair Karen Duncan and Christie Vilsack

As the Director of Logistics and head of school nutrition for Chicago Public Schools, Louise Esaian oversees school food for the third-largest district in the country, serving more than 64 million meals per year to more than 400,000 students in 675 schools. She's also at the forefront of change, making Chicago an example of how large districts can work toward higher standards than ever before. Louise recently announced the district's new nutrition standards for
school food, which mean that in the upcoming school year, all meals will
meet the gold standard in the HealthierUS School Challenge. You can
learn more about the program here.

We have been working hard in Chicago to update and improve the district’s nutrition standards. In the past few years we have removed deep fryers, increased fruit and vegetables offered, removed transfats from our menus, offered only lower-fat and no fat milk, and introduced a regional procurement program that brings fresh fruit and flash frozen vegetables to the school menus. This fall, we decided that we wanted to do even more, so we convened a committee to review the district’s nutrition standards in light of the newly released recommendations from the Institute of Medicine. I’m happy to report that the bid for food service management that CPS just released includes nutrition requirements that meet the USDA’s HeathierUS Gold Standard and incorporate many of the recommendations from the Institute of Medicine.

This is an important step but there is much more that we could do to address the obesity epidemic which hits low-income minority populations and the students of the Chicago Public Schools especially hard.

With the support of Congress, we could continue to improve our district’s nutrition standards, increase whole grains, and healthy fruits and vegetables, meet the broader standards included in the HealthierUS Gold standard around physical activity and nutrition education, and put policies in place around competitive foods sold outside of the school dining center.

Everyone knows that healthier food costs more in the short term, but the long-term impact on health and well being and the opportunity to reduce diseases and health crises like obesity and hypertension, more than make up for that cost over time. I encourage Congress to support the President’s funding proposal for the Child Nutrition Act. There is a movement in Chicago and across the country to improve school food and support the First Lady’s challenge to reduce childhood obesity.

We are ready to do our part and I encourage Congress to support and enhance these efforts at the federal level. 

You can learn more about Cooking up Change here and raise your voice for healthy school food and a strong, well-funded reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act here.