Over the past few months, we have been concerned as health promoting policies at the national and state level have been rolled back. For example, the Secretary of Agriculture has rolled back certain healthy food standards, and then last month the State of Illinois removed the state mandate for daily physical education. Despite these threats to children’s health, we are pleased to know that Chicago Public Schools (CPS) will maintain both its commitment to its strong PE policy and higher nutrition standards for school food.
Currently, CPS schools are required to offer daily PE or 150 minutes of PE per week, and that’s not something the district is looking to change—regardless of what’s happened at the state level. “We understand fully what is at stake, and our current policy embodies our unequivocal position, legal right and moral obligation to promote and protect the health of the students we serve,” said Chief Health Officer Ken Fox in a statement.
When the district first adopted its new wellness policy over the summer, we expressed concern about a new provision that allows the Chief Health Officer to update the PE requirements if the state changed the PE standard. We’re encouraged to see the district reaffirm its commitment to daily PE.
CPS was also already implementing the higher school food standards set out by 2010’s Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, and has no plans to roll back the progress they’ve made. CPS is committed to staying the course, safeguarding the progress made and continuing to move the needle forward. CPS will now also document these values and standards in all its contracts with school food service companies and make it available for all to see. That is great news for our children!
Providing the 380,000 CPS students with high-quality, nutritious food and high-quality, daily PE is especially critical in Chicago, where more than 85 percent of students are at increased risk for chronic health conditions and obesity. We’re glad to see the district confirm its commitment to these health-promoting policies and to the health and wellness of the children it serves.