Cooking up Change is truly a group effort. We could not run such a great program without the help from our amazing sponsors and supporters. One of those is our Chicago Presenting sponsor and National School Nutrition Partner: Aramark. Aramark works with Chicago Public Schools (CPS) to deliver breakfast and lunch to 380,000 students each and every day.
We spoke to Larry Weger, the vice president of education services at Aramark, about the importance of Cooking up Change and what it teaches students. One way Aramark supports the contest is by providing food for student chefs to use during the competition. Aramark’s leadership ensures that the winning meal is served across the entire CPS district. “As the provider of school meals for CPS, it is a natural fit for Aramark and Cooking up Change to partner in the development of school food and future culinary leaders,” Weger says.
Cooking up Change not only gives students an opportunity to develop new and exciting recipes, but it gives them insight into the business requirements of school food management, Weger says. Students work with dietitians from Aramark to ensure their meals meet USDA nutritional requirements, and students work within the district’s food service budget. “Students are often surprised when they learn of the USDA requirements, CPS policies and Aramark guidelines that go into developing menus and recipes,” he says.
Aramark dietitians not only help set the contest rules for the flagship Chicago contest and the National contests, but they also provide assistance to the student culinary teams in reviewing and making sure their recipes meet the guidelines.
Cooking up Change also allows students to be part of the conversation about what’s served in their cafeterias. “The students are the customer, and their voices matter,” Weger says. “Students spend 80 percent of their time at school and many eat two to three meals per day while at school. It’s important for them to be able to share their thoughts and have input in what they are eating. If they are a part of the process, they will be more likely to eat the meals that are served.”
And making sure students are eating enough food is key to ensuring they are in school and ready to learn. “Healthy school food promotes learning and the development of a strong mind,” says Weger.
We’re so excited to see what great meals the students chefs have prepared and hear what they have to say about healthy school food at Cooking up Change on Nov. 17 at the Bridgeport Art Center.
We couldn’t put on such a great contest every year without the support of our generous sponsors including: Presenting sponsor and National School Nutrition Partner, Aramark; Heroes, Aetna and Sammons Financial Group; Champion sponsors RJB Properties and School Health Corporation; Official Education Partner, Chicago Public Schools CTE Culinary Arts Program; Culinary Scholarship sponsor, Washburne Culinary Institute; National Gold level sponsor, National Food Group; Official Travel Partner, Southwest; Official Culinary Partner, James Beard Foundation; and Silver level sponsor, American Federation of Teachers.