Viewing School Food Through the Student Lens: a Q+A with Trevor Ferguson

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 Trevor Ferguson, regional vice president at Aramark. Trevor works closely with Leslie Fowler at Chicago Public Schools (CPS) to deliver breakfast and lunch to 400,000 students. His team of dietitians also helps review Cooking up Change recipes, and he provides food for student chefs to use during the competition. Trevor’s leadership ensures that the winning meal is served across the entire CPS district.

When did you get involved in Cooking up Change?
Aramark has been the presenting sponsor of the competition for the past three years.

Why do you support Cooking up Change?
As the food service provider for Chicago Public Schools, we see firsthand every day the importance of good nutrition and its impact on students. Cooking up Change affords the culinary students an opportunity to see how food service management is executed, as the students must develop a recipe based on the same guidelines and ingredients that we use in the school system. The students work with our dieticians and chefs to develop their menus and they gain an understanding of the requirements and government guidelines to produce school meals.

How has being involved with Cooking up Change impacted you in your role at Aramark?
It’s allowed me to better understand the dining palates of students and view our menu development process through the student lens. This, I hope, has made me a better partner with CPS.

What do you love about Cooking up Change?
I really enjoy seeing the student’s creativity and diving into their thought patterns around the meals they’ve developed. These students are incredibly talented and they’re our future super stars in the culinary and hospitality industry. It’s great how the culinary community rallies around them. Not only do the students compete in the competition, but they’re also exposed to the workings of school food advocacy when they go to Washington, DC. It’s a great opportunity for them to see the legislative process and meet their Illinois legislators.

Why are student voices important?
The bottom line is that we’re in the service business; the students are our ultimate clients. Hearing from them in terms of their likes and dislikes is very important; which is why we conduct surveys twice a month to obtain feedback on our various programs. If they don’t like the food we’ll hear about it and try to implement change where possible.

How does Aramark engage with culinary students throughout the year?
We engage with the culinary students throughout the year with various programs such as the Culinary Careers Speakers Series, Capstone Passport and through our Culinary & Hospitality Scholarships.

 

If you’re in Chicago, please join us on Oct. 29 to witness these talented young chefs in action and to 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.