What Cooking up Change Means to CPS Leadership

  • November 9, 2016
Leslie David Blog

Cooking up Change is truly a group effort. We could not run such a great program without help from our amazing sponsors and supporters. Cooking up Change gets tremendous support from Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and specifically, Leslie Fowler and David Blackmon. Leslie is the Director of Nutrition Support Services at CPS, and David is the Senior Program Coordinator, Culinary Arts, Career and Technical Education (CTE) at CPS.

Under Leslie’s leadership, CPS serves 75 million meals to 380,000 students each year. She recognizes the unique opportunity that Cooking up Change presents to CPS students. Leslie’s program also serves the winning Cooking up Change meal in cafeterias across the district and occasionally incorporates winning recipes into the menu rotation. “Cooking up Change provides a creative outlet for students while also giving them an opportunity to meet the challenge of creating and executing a recipe which meets all of the USDA and CPS requirements for school meals,” she says.

David started at CPS the same year we held the first Cooking up Change competition and has been an integral part in the program since then. Last year, we honored David with an award for his years of outstanding leadership and support of Cooking up Change. David understands the Cooking up Change program is about much more than the delicious school meals the students produce. It’s about elevating student voices in the conversation about healthy school food. “Our children are our customers and their opinions should matter,” he says. “They have something to say and the adults need to listen and pay attention. Remember, the customer is always right.”

This year’s 10th anniversary of Cooking up Change is a great time to look back on the amazing work we’ve been able to do as well as look ahead to another 10 years. “I am very proud of our relationship and the impact that the last 10 years has had on our students,” says Leslie. “I really look forward to the next 10 years.”

If you’re in Chicago, please join us on Nov. 17 to listen to what these talented young chefs have to say about healthy school food and 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 2016-2017 schedule soon!

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.