CPS pledges to provide healthier cafeteria food

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The lunch ladies weren’t just serving students this morning at Sharon
Christa McAuliffe Elementary School. They also handed green plastic
trays to officials from the Chicago Public School, the United States
Department of Agriculture and members of the Healthy Schools Campaign. The officials were there to launch CPS’ new nutritional standards—a move
demanded by students who showed up at last month’s Board of Education
meeting complaining of unhealthy and unappetizing school food.


The lunch ladies weren’t just serving students this morning at Sharon Christa McAuliffe Elementary School. They also handed green plastic trays to officials from the Chicago Public School, the United States Department of Agriculture and members of the Healthy Schools Campaign.

The officials were there to launch CPS’ new nutritional standards—a move demanded by students who showed up at last month’s Board of Education meeting complaining of unhealthy and unappetizing school food.

At McAuliffe on Wednesday, whole wheat pizza, cucumber salad and chicken jambalaya replaced the usual nachos, potatoes and assortment of deep-fried foods. By the Fall, every CPS school will have a new menu featuring healthier options like these, CPS Logistics Coordinator Louise Esaian said.

They’ll also have whole grains and a different vegetable every day, including more that are dark green and orange. And they will have more fiber and reduced-fat salad dressing and mayonnaise.

CPS put out a bid for its cafeteria food based on the new guidelines. The current food service provider Chartwells Thompson Hospitality responded to the bid that it could provide this more nutritional fare for the same $58 million it got in its previous contract.

The new nutritional guidelines set Chicago Public Schools up to be part of the Healthier U.S. Schools Challenge, which recognizes schools for increasing nutritional offerings and physical activities.

CPS officials also are expanding its breakfast programs. Currently, 181 schools have in-class breakfasts so all of their students eat before studies begin. Schools without the program serve an additional 40,000 students every day. And with the new food standards, students are eating cereals with more fiber and less sugar instead of donuts and Pop-tarts.

 

“We are pleased to see that CPS sees that health is an important pathway to learning,” said Rochelle Davis, executive director of Healthy Schools Campaign, a national organization based in Chicago.

Students and parents also are happy with the changes. Two McAuliffe students spoke during the presentation Wednesday and said they are thankful for the fresh food and fresh air. They said they enjoy eating the healthier dishes and think their classmates will too.

Davis said parents were a big part of this initiative. Even those who are not part of the Healthy Schools Campaign have been supportive.

“Parents educated themselves, made changes in their homes and reached out to the school,” Davis said.

Maria Duarte and Jovita Flores, McAuliffe parents and members of the Healthy Schools Campaign, have children with nutrition-related health problems. They are worried about their kids getting sick from unhealthy food.

“We want to avoid the diseases,” Duarte said.

They have been working hard to achieve the changes CPS is implementing and think they will be beneficial.