Today’s Chicago Tribune Story on Chicago Public Schools Food Service

March 12, 2012

Update (March 23, 2012): As many readers know, the initial Chicago Tribune article discussed in this post has been followed by several stories in the Tribune and one in the Chicago Sun-Times detailing select findings from the Inspector General’s report. The most recent development is a retraction from the Chicago Tribune of a number of key facts in their story about the Inspector General’s findings. In this most recent article, the Tribune reported that the value of the gifts exchanged was “far less than stated” in the original article and that they wrongly reported that certain expenses were charged on school nutrition director Louise Esaian’s CPS credit card when in fact they were on Ms. Esaian’s personal credit card.  The Inspector General’s report has not yet been made public. This story continues to unfold; we will share updates as more information is available. To read about HSC's efforts moving forward, click here.

by Rochelle Davis, President and CEO

This morning, readers of the Chicago Tribune found a front-page story reporting that the Inspector General for Chicago Public Schools (CPS) is investigating allegations that Chartwells-Thompson Hospitality, the company that provides food service to many CPS schools, gave gifts to a high-ranking CPS employee, in possible violation of the district’s ethics policy.  

HSC has worked closely with CPS on making improvements to their food program, and Chartwells-Thompson has been a long-time sponsor of our Cooking up Change healthy cooking contest. I’d like to share some additional background about HSC's work with both of these organizations.

The article discusses Chartwells-Thompson Hospitality’s community involvement and mentions that Healthy Schools Campaign is one of the organizations, in addition to After School Matters, that receives support from Chartwells-Thompson. As many readers  know, Chartwells-Thompson Hospitality has been a sponsor of Cooking up Change, Healthy Schools Campaign’s annual culinary competition, for many years. Through this sponsorship, Chartwells-Thompson Hospitality has donated a total of $111,500 to Healthy Schools Campaign over five years, beginning in 2007. Cooking up Change focuses on HSC’s effort to engage high school culinary students in the movement for healthy school food.

HSC has also worked closely with CPS and by extension with Chartwells-Thompson Hospitality to make improvements to the school food program in Chicago. These improvements include more fresh fruit and vegetables, more whole grains and more freshly-prepared food in school meals, a large farm-to-school program and other health-promoting changes. Through this work, we have seen leaders at CPS and at Chartwells-Thompson Hospitality make important decisions about school food that prioritize children’s health. There is still much work to be done in this area, and I hope that everyone involved — at CPS, at Chartwells-Thompson, and at schools across the city — will remain focused on continued progress for healthy school food.

In response to the alleged ethics violations discussed in the Tribune, we will wait until the Inspector General completes his investigation and we learn what this investigation determines before we comment. We are glad that CPS has critical systems in place to make sure that decisions made by its employees are in the best interest of the district’s students.

We are continuing our efforts to improve school food in Chicago and hope that the school, business and community leaders we work with in this effort will remain focused on improvements that are so important for children’s health.