CPS doesn’t know how much sugar is in kids’ meals

Federal rules don’t require districts to track sugar levels in school food

April 25, 2014

(Flickr/Uwe Hermann)
Chicago Public School officials don’t know how much sugar they are feeding to students.

 

UPDATE TO UPDATE: May 2: Early Friday afternoon Aramark told WBEZ it had supplied CPS with the sugar data. Late Friday afternoon CPS sent it to WBEZ. An initial glance shows that a single CPS breakfast of French toast, syrup and orange juice can deliver 34.5 grams of sugar.  This far exceeds the sugar limits set by the American Heart Association for grown women over an entire day.   

UPDATE: May 2: Tim O'Brien of the Illinois Attorney General's office tells WBEZ that he is contacting Chicago Public Schools about the district's failure to complete our Freedom of Information Act request --particularly when it comes to revealing how much sugar is in CPS food.  

 

When it comes to pinpointing the source of our childhood obesity epidemic, factors like fat and calories are receding slowly into the background while sugar is emerging as a major factor.

In fact, the Harvard School of Public Health says that “Rising consumption of sugary drinks has been a major contributor to the obesity epidemic.” 

Strange, then, that in the most recent revamp of school food rules, sugar was untouched and remains completely unregulated. Sugar (which often arrives in the form of corn syrup)  is such a non-issue to school food authorities that Chicago Public Schools don’t even bother to keep track of how much they put in CPS food--food fed to some of the most obese children in the nation.

Seven weeks ago WBEZ sent in a Freedom of Information Act asking CPS for its Top 5 entrees and their ingredients, as well as the district’s 50 most served foods and their nutrients. When the FOIA was finally answered, many things, including sugar levels, were missing.

Today, seven weeks after filing the FOIA request, WBEZ learned that the district doesn’t “collect” and subsequently doesn’t know how much sugar it’s serving up to Chicago children.

WBEZ has put in a request to CPS caterer Aramark for this information. Representatives at the Pennsylvania-based company say that CPS never asked them for the data and this is the first they’d heard of it.

It’s unknown how much sugar is in the CPS “syrup pancake cup” or strawberry pancakes or French toast sticks, but it is known that Danimals yogurt cups contain 13 grams of sugar per serving. That’s more than half of what the American Heart Association recommends for a grown woman’s daily diet.

We’ll keep you updated on our quest for data on Chicago Public School food here.

Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the Chewing The Fat podcast. Follow her at @monicaeng or write to her at meng@wbez.org