Cooking up Change Chicago is about challenging Chicago Public Schools (CPS) culinary students to create healthy school meals that taste great and appeal to their peers. But it’s also about putting student voices front and center in our city’s conversation about school food.
The student chefs from Washington High School got that chance last month when they were honored at the Chicago Board of Education meeting. Jalize and Marshawn spoke on behalf of the team and talked about the inspiration behind their menu: Cajun Chicken Lettuce Wrap, Roasted Corn Relish and Deconstructed Peach and Yogurt Pizza.
Board members were engaged and asked the students questions about their meal and the role of healthy school food in CPS. Board President Frank Clark was particularly engaged as was member Mahalia Hines, who spoke to the students about their upcoming trip to Washington, D.C., to compete in the national finals.
In addition to being able to talk to the students, the Board tried the students’ meal during their closed session after the public meeting.
This is just one of the opportunities the team from Washington High School has to talk about their experiences with school food. In February, their meal was served to all 400,000 CPS students and to leaders from CPS, Aramark, the USDA and the Mayor’s office at a celebration lunch. Also this month, the team was down in Springfield, Ill., speaking to the Illinois State Board of Education.
It’s so important to hear from students in the conversation about school food. After all, it’s students that are eating the food. These student chefs teach us all to focus on the solutions rather than the challenges. And their meals have proven popular among students and have been featured on the CPS lunch menu. The fact that students enjoy these meals is a testament to the students’ skill in creating recipes under real-life constraints, and their ability to design healthy lunches that are popular with their peers.