WBEZ | school lunch http://www.wbez.org/tags/school-lunch Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Federal money to make school lunches healthier remains unspent in many states, including Illinois http://www.wbez.org/sections/food/federal-money-make-school-lunches-healthier-remains-unspent-many-states-including <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/AP_472548821527.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>New school food rules, passed in 2010, have required districts to revamp their offerings--boosting whole grains and vegetables while reducing sodium and trans fats.</p><p>But many districts and politicians--aiming to roll back the rules--have complained that those standards cost too much to implement.</p><p>In Chicago today, U.S. Agriculture Sec. Tom Vilsack struck back at those claims, noting that his department gave states $90 million to implement the new rules with training and technical assistance programs.</p><p>&ldquo;But there&rsquo;s still $28 million left unspent,&rdquo; Vilsack said during a talk at the Union League Club Friday. &ldquo;My favorite is the state of Louisiana where Bobby Jindal has not spent a dime of that money. It&rsquo;s $2 million [in unspent funding] in that state and I think it&rsquo;s a fairly significant amount in Illinois, too.&rdquo;</p><p>According to USDA sources, the amount unspent in Illinois (where healthier Chicago Public Schools lunches have met mixed reactions) is more than $3 million--$1.5 million of which is set to expire at the end of the month.</p><p>So why have Illinois and other states left the money unspent?</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s a puzzle to me,&rdquo; Vilsack said. &ldquo;We&rsquo;ve written them. We&rsquo;ve communicated to governors and legislators that this money is available.&nbsp; You&rsquo;d have to ask them.&rdquo;</p><p>The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), which is charged with using the money, did not make anyone available for comment before deadline. But USDA says that it has already approved use of the $1.5 million to purchase menu planning software. It&rsquo;s unclear, however, if ISBE will procure the contracts for the software in time to use the money.</p><p>After Sept. 30, the state will have $1.7 million in funding remaining, according to USDA.</p><p>While at the Union League Club, Sec. Vilsack was also asked what he planned to do about school food waste, reportedly exacerbated by new healthier school food rules. Vilsack said studies did not show greater waste in schools caused by the rules. But he did say that the broader food waste problem was troublesome. Vilsack announced that he will unveil a brand new national anti-food waste initiative this Thursday in New York city.</p><p><a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng" target="_blank">Monica Eng is WBEZ&rsquo;s food and health reporter. Follow her at @monicaeng or write to her at meng@wbez.org</a></p></p> Fri, 11 Sep 2015 17:13:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/sections/food/federal-money-make-school-lunches-healthier-remains-unspent-many-states-including Advice to kindergarteners — from the experts http://www.wbez.org/news/advice-kindergarteners-%E2%80%94-experts-112860 <p><p>For more than 300,000 Chicago kids, today kicks off the first day of the school year. But for thousands of kindergarteners, today marks the first day of school--ever.</p><p dir="ltr">And while parents can do their best to soothe first-week fears, there&rsquo;s another group who can offer more current expertise on the subject. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">They&rsquo;re the veterans. The big kids. The first and second graders.</p><p dir="ltr">WBEZ recently hit the playground to consult with a few of these sages. They go to Dewey Elementary in Evanston where they started school last month.</p><p dir="ltr">Here&rsquo;s a collection of their tips for newbies on a variety of important topics. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>How do you make friends when you don&rsquo;t know anyone at the school?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Join them in some games or you can include them or sit next to them so they can feel included.&rdquo;--Julian Pomeran</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;You say, &lsquo;Hello, nice to meet you. What&rsquo;s your name, do you want to play with me?&rsquo; You should never exclude them out or they won&rsquo;t really feel comfortable going to the school.&rdquo;--Anna Vincent</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;It&rsquo;s really simple to make a friend because you can start playing with someone--not necessarily ask them--and you can just start playing with them, and then you will finally become friends.&rdquo; --Amir Aguilar</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>What should you eat for lunch?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Bring your own lunch because sometimes on the first day you don&rsquo;t really know what the food tastes like.&rdquo;--Christina Hunt-Baiocchi</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;You can&rsquo;t share food because your parents want to know that what they packed for you is what you&rsquo;re eating. So don&rsquo;t ask someone to give you their food--even if it&rsquo;s something you really, really like.&rdquo;--Anya Gill</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;If someone doesn&rsquo;t have a lunch, you could encourage them to have a hot lunch.&rdquo; --Ty Needos</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Normally your family should pack it since hot lunch is a little bit unhealthy. It has more sugar in it. And you should always bring some fruit with it.&rdquo; --Florencia Baskin</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;If you really like something that somebody next to you in the cafeteria has just don&rsquo;t ask them for it, because you might be allergic to it, and you don&rsquo;t know.&rdquo; --Isabella Franconeri</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/KINDERGARTEN.jpg" style="text-align: center;" title="First graders Sam, Harriet and Christina were among Evanston’s Dewey Elementary students who shared advice for kids just starting school. (WBEZ/Monica Eng) " /></p><p dir="ltr"><strong>How do you do kindergarten homework?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;You shouldn&rsquo;t be scared because if you don&rsquo;t know some stuff, you can get your mom and dad to help you.&rdquo; Caroline Emrich</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Well, if it&rsquo;s math homework, they could use a number grid or use their fingers. And if it&rsquo;s reading they could sound it out.&rdquo; --Sam Kalil</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Since you&rsquo;re in school you don&rsquo;t have to worry about that because they&rsquo;re gonna teach you about that.&rdquo; Christina Hunt-Baiocchi</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>How do you get ready for school on time?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;You should have an alarm clock or maybe your parents can wake you up for school.&rdquo; --Caroline Emrich</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Just put on the clothes the mom gives you.&rdquo; --Markiana Jackson</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Eat breakfast and like maybe if you have a little bit of time you can watch cartoons if your mom lets you--or dad.&rdquo; --Harriet Collins</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>What do you do if you miss your mom and dad?</strong></p><p>&ldquo;If you miss your mom and dad you can bring a picture of them and put it on your table so you don&rsquo;t miss them so much.&rdquo; --Lukas Linder</p><p>&ldquo;Make a necklace that has a picture of your mom so that whenever you miss her you look at it.&rdquo; --Harriet Collins</p><p>&ldquo;They should just get a friend and play with them so that they can forget about it.&rdquo;--Florencia Baskin</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Any last general tips for a successful kindergarten year?</strong></p><p>&ldquo;Always be caring to everybody and if they didn&rsquo;t finish their homework, don&rsquo;t say &lsquo;you didn&rsquo;t finish your homework on time. You should finish it right now.&rsquo; Don&rsquo;t say that.&rdquo; &nbsp;--Blaise Bennett</p><p>&ldquo;Always share and be nice to everyone and make sure no one feels left out, and never be mean to someone.&rdquo; --Willa Cates</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the Chewing The Fat podcast. Follow her at<a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng"> @monicaeng</a> or write to her at <a href="mailto:Kindergarten advice">meng@wbez.org</a>.</em></p><div>&nbsp;</div></p> Tue, 08 Sep 2015 12:47:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/advice-kindergarteners-%E2%80%94-experts-112860 What's the key to better school food? http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/whats-key-better-school-food-111051 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/BETTER SCHOOL FOOD.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>In the last decade, school districts around the nation have tried different formulas to reform student lunches. Some think the answer lies in salad bars. Others have tried all organic programs. Still others have put their bets on school gardens.</p><p>But one little known program out of Minnesota starts by simply removing seven unwanted ingredients.</p><p>&ldquo;We have no artificial colors, no artificial sweeteners, no artificial preservatives, no trans fats or hydrogenated oils, no antibiotics or hormones in meats and no bleached flour,&rdquo; Jason Thunstrom said as he stood in the Jeans Elementary School lunchroom in West Suburban Willowbrook.</p><p>Thunstrom is President of the Life Time Fitness Foundation, which has provided 90 schools in four states with money to buy foods without the seven ingredients. The lunches end up looking a lot like what you&rsquo;d see in any other low income schools, just sourced from manufacturers who don&rsquo;t use artificial colors, sweeteners or preservatives or trans fats and meat raised with antibiotics.&nbsp;</p><p>One of those food manufacturers is Bill Kurtis. Yes, the legendary anchorman. He has been selling grass-fed beef under his Tallgrass brand for years, but just recently got into the hot dog game. He was also at Jeans Elementary on a recent afternoon watching the debut of his hot dogs in a school cafeteria.</p><p>&ldquo;We put grassfed beef in and we took out nitrates ... and preservatives that you&rsquo;ll find in regular hot dogs,&quot; Kurtis said. &rdquo;And it&rsquo;s why your mother is a little afraid for you to have a regular diet of hot dogs.&quot;</p><p>Kurtis was speaking to a room of low-income third graders, who seemed unfamiliar with his work as a newscaster but highly appreciative of hot dog-making skills.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;They taste really good,&rdquo; third-grader Renaya said.</p><p>Some of her classmates even appreciated the meal on its nutritional merits.</p><p>&ldquo;It was really good because I put ketchup on the hot dog and a bun is [whole] grain,&rdquo; third-grader Malcolm said.</p><p>Thunstrom says one of the students eating this hot dog, corn, carrot, apple and milk lunch was eating the millionth meal served in the Life Time funded program.&nbsp;</p><p>The whole idea was spawned, he says, by concern the company&rsquo;s CEO had over his own child entering school. When he heard about what was served in most American lunchrooms, he initially considered buying up the lunch program.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;But then reality set in, and he realized it would be an expensive proposition,&rdquo; Thunstrom remembered.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>So instead of buying the whole program, Life Time decided to do an experiment&mdash;to see what it would take to get those seven ingredients out of school food.</p><p>&ldquo;We started with one school in Minnesota just as a test to see if we could go in and look at their lunch and remove those seven items what might that cost,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;We were surprised to find it was about 35 cents [per student meal] on average.&rdquo;</p><p>This first phase of the program involves serving better versions of lunchrooms standards like hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken nuggets and pizza. But Thunstrom says the longer term goal is to upgrade kitchens and support more cooking from scratch.&nbsp;</p><p>To this end, Life Time presented the school with a $10,000 check to upgrade its kitchen for more scratch cooking.</p><p>Still, the endgame isn&rsquo;t to keep writing unlimited checks. Thunstrom says that the ultimate goal is to get other funders, administrators, and eventually, the federal government to recognize the value of such a program and make it the norm.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;d like this model to become known to government officials and school administrators,&rdquo; Thunstrom said. &ldquo;You know, to say &lsquo;it&rsquo;s America, enough&rsquo;s enough.&rsquo; We think it&rsquo;s worth investing in our kids an incremental 35 cents to at least get them on a healthy way of life journey at school. Then can we also [create] lesson planning and take-home material to help that bleed over into the home.&rdquo;</p><p>And he doesn&rsquo;t just mean the homes of corporate CEOs.</p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the <a href="http://wbez.org/podcasts">Chewing The Fat</a>&nbsp;podcast. Follow her at <a href="http://twitter.com/monicaeng" target="_blank">@monicaeng </a>or write to her at meng@wbez.org</em></p></p> Mon, 03 Nov 2014 12:34:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/whats-key-better-school-food-111051 Nutrition programs ditch whole milk http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/nutrition-programs-ditch-whole-milk-110929 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/school lunch (1).jpeg" alt="" /><p><p>Last school year, lunchrooms across the nation got a dietary makeover. New rules banished 2 percent and whole milk from the National School Lunch Program. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>This month, Illinois&rsquo; Women Infant and Children feeding program followed suit by now offering skim and 1 percent almost exclusively.</p><p>&ldquo;This was a decision by the United States&rsquo; Department of Agriculture, who funds our program,&rdquo; says Stephanie Bess program director for Illinois WIC. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s designed to align our food packages with the messages that we provide to our participants. Since 1995, the dietary guidelines for Americans have recommended low-fat milk.&rdquo;</p><p>But critics say, 1995 was a long time ago, and that these guidelines have almost no scientific evidence to back them up.</p><p>Dr. David Ludwig directs the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center at Boston Children&rsquo;s Hospital. He wants to see better science behind the program decisions.</p><p>&ldquo;It seems to make sense that if we just got rid of the saturated fat in milk there could be health benefits and there would be weight loss and lower cardiovascular disease risk factors,&rdquo; Ludwig says. &ldquo;Unfortunately, there is virtually no evidence that reducing fat in milk will have any health benefits at all.&rdquo;</p><p>Last year, <a href="http://archpedi.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1704826">Ludwig wrote an editorial</a> with Harvard&rsquo;s Public Health chief Walter Willett warning officials against low-fat school milk. They represent a growing group of scientists and doctors who say the low-fat dietary guidelines run counter to public health.</p><p>USDA representatives declined to be interviewed for this story, but offered a written statement saying the recommendations came from &ldquo;experts in health, nutrition, school food service, and economics.&rdquo;</p><p>Bess of Illinois WIC tried to explain the agency&rsquo;s rationale.</p><p>&ldquo;As a registered dietician, I am looking at the diet as a whole, which is what we do at WIC,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;Milk is one component of that and this is more than a calorie issue. This is about saturated fat.&rdquo;</p><p>Still, as many point out, <a href="http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/03/17/study-questions-fat-and-heart-disease-link/?_php=true&amp;_type=blogs&amp;_r=0">analyses</a> from Harvard and Cambridge University researchers now suggest that saturated fat is not to blame for heart disease. Instead, it&rsquo;s carbohydrates that appear to be the villain. In fact, new <a href="http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/videos/news/Low_Fat_090214-1.html">government</a> research suggests a high-fat, low-carb diet is much more effective for weight loss than a low-fat diet.</p><p>Last year, researchers at the University of Virginia School of Medicine looked at 10,700 children and<a href="http://news.virginia.edu/content/uva-study-children-drinking-low-fat-milk-gain-similar-amount-weight-those-drinking-whole"> found that those who drank skim and one percent milk </a>were much more likely to be overweight and obese than those who drank 2 percent or whole milk. In fact, children who started at normal weight and drank low-fat milks were 57 percent more likely to become overweight than those who drank higher fat milks.</p><p>Nina Tiecholz wrote <a href="http://www.thebigfatsurprise.com/">&ldquo;The Big Fat Surprise.&rdquo;</a> It charts the rise of obesity in the US as citizens followed government advice to cut fat, especially saturated fat, in their diet. She said she was heartbroken by the news on WIC.</p><p>&ldquo;To me it&rsquo;s devastating because without the fat in milk you cannot digest the fat soluble vitamins A and D,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;They are essential and without them you can&rsquo;t absorb the minerals in milk. So milk is much less nutritious when you take out the fat.&rdquo;</p><p>Ludwig notes that these low-fat milks lose flavor along with those calories.</p><p>&ldquo;And there&rsquo;s the tendency to replace those calories with sugar like chocolate milk and that trade off is not good for children&rsquo;s health,&rdquo; he says.</p><p>Indeed, today skim chocolate milk is the No. 1 beverage served in the federal lunch program. &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;Milk that&rsquo;s high in sugar and low in fat is the worst possible kind of beverage you could be serving them,&rdquo; Teicholz says, noting the lower nutrition absorption and adding, &ldquo;Sugar triggers the release of insulin, which is the king of all hormones for making you fat.&rdquo;</p><p>USDA officials, however, disagree. They say the added sugar is worth it if it gets kids to drink the milk.</p><p>&ldquo;Studies have shown consistently over the country that if you take out that option [for chocolate milk] even though it&rsquo;s non-fat, the milk consumption goes down,&rdquo; says USDA undersecretary Concannon.</p><p>And while the American Heart Association doesn&rsquo;t support sugary school milk, it does support the the switch to low-fat white milk in WIC. Still, the heart association&rsquo;s Mark Peysakhovich says they&rsquo;re also open to considering any new data the move might bring. &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to study the effects of low fat milk on this population,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;And that&rsquo;s part of what&rsquo;s so exciting about this move.&rdquo;</p><p>To find out if the USDA will also considered the new data, you won&#39;t have to wait long. New dietary guidelines are due out in 2015.</p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ food and health reporter, and co-host of the Chewing The Fat podcast. Follow her at<a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng"> @monicaeng</a> or write to her at meng@wbez.org</em></p></p> Mon, 13 Oct 2014 11:32:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/nutrition-programs-ditch-whole-milk-110929 Morning Shift: Have school lunches in Chicago gotten any healthier? http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-04-15/morning-shift-have-school-lunches-chicago-gotten-any <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Cover school lunches Flickr USDAgov.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Just how healthy are school lunches at Chicago Public Schools? What about the school your child attends? We tackles those questions. We also get a preview of the Chicago International Movies and Music Festival - this year&#39;s lineup has something for everyone.</p><div class="storify"><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="no" height="750" src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-have-years-of-reform-created-healthi/embed?header=false&amp;border=false" width="100%"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-have-years-of-reform-created-healthi.js?header=false&border=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-have-years-of-reform-created-healthi" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: Have school lunches in Chicago gotten any healthier?" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Tue, 15 Apr 2014 08:47:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-04-15/morning-shift-have-school-lunches-chicago-gotten-any Has a decade of school food reform resulted in healthier lunches? http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/has-decade-school-food-reform-resulted-healthier-lunches-110018 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/CPS spicy chicken patty (1).jpg" alt="" /><p><p>More than a decade ago, a few American reformers launched a major movement to improve the quality of school meals. In the ensuing years Congress has passed laws and schools have adopted their reforms. But what has really changed on the plate?</p><p>To get an idea we recently took a look at Chicago Public School menus and interviewed some of the leaders in school food reform.</p><p>This first look revealed that&nbsp;<a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.cps.edu%2FAbout_CPS%2FDepartments%2FDocuments%2FElemBreakfast_English.pdf&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNHF1wXNo9mZvL706VeQabtiZw-YIg">breakfast offerings in most CPS schools</a> last week featured strawberry flavored pancakes, French toast sticks and pancakes wrapped around a sausage on a stick. And for lunch? The district&rsquo;s top three entrees include processed chicken patties, processed chicken nuggets and processed chicken crumbles over nachos.&nbsp; Each of those chicken products alone contains dozens of ingredients.</p><p>After years of efforts by First Lady Michelle Obama and others to put real food on cafeteria tables, why are meals in one of the most obese districts in the nation still dominated by sugary and processed food?</p><p>&ldquo;The schools have really been hijacked by the companies who are benefitting when children are fed and digest the values of fast food,&rdquo; says Alice Waters, the mother of American cuisine and founder of the <a href="https://www.google.com/url?q=https%3A%2F%2Fedibleschoolyard.org%2F&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNHuO6fHFuSQZr5x9qwI9Ta0nqnfhA">Edible Schoolyard Project in Berkeley</a> where kids learn to grow and cook their food. &ldquo;They are headed out to be consumers and that&rsquo;s what we are doing in the schools and so it&rsquo;s not surprising to me.&rdquo;</p><p>Ann Cooper is a culinary school trained chef who was recruited by Waters to launch a fresh local meals program in the Berkeley schools 15 years ago. Today, Cooper has brought that mission to the Boulder Valley School District where she&rsquo;s working to transform the the entire meal program.&nbsp; But these kinds of programs are still few and far between.</p><p>&ldquo;Considering that the National School Lunch Program has been around for 65 years and a good half of those years it has been serving bad food I think, in the last 10 years, we&rsquo;ve made positive change in leaps and bounds,&rdquo; Cooper said. &ldquo;But it&rsquo;s in small pockets and almost ethereal when it comes to what&rsquo;s on children&rsquo;s plates. It&rsquo;s really good, but maybe not so much in a lot of places.&rdquo;</p><p>We should note that WBEZ invited representatives from Michelle Obama&rsquo;s office, Chicago Public Schools, including their caterer Aramark, and the United States Department of Agriculture, which oversees the lunch program, to speak for this story. They all either declined or did not respond.</p><p>According to both Waters and Cooper one big fundamental flaw in the system is that so many districts hire large for-profit companies to cater the meals. They say the program should be about maximizing quality rather than profits.</p><p>&ldquo;The school district is trying to pay the least amount of money possible because they have a tight budget,&rdquo; Cooper said. &ldquo;Then they hire an outside contractor who is trying to make the most money possible because that&rsquo;s their job as a multi-national corporation. So it&rsquo;s really at odds with teaching children about food and serving the best food. It&rsquo;s just a lose-lose situation for children.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p><p>In 2010 Sarah Wu stepped into this lose-lose situation. She took the school food world by storm by simply buying daily lunch, photographing it and writing about it on her anonymous blog called &ldquo;<a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Ffedupwithlunch.com%2Fcategory%2Fmrs-q%2Fthe-book-about-me-2%2F&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNFRso58FxlMd-7f0wAQ7_D3mU4HtA">Fed Up With Lunch.</a>&rdquo; It gave many readers their first glimpse of what was really on the plate, and in 2011 it became a book by the same name.</p><p>It was then that Wu finally revealed herself as a Chicago area mom, CPS speech pathologist and, finally, an open lunch crusader.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;I think that I came to the conclusion that it&rsquo;s such a thorny thing,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;There are a lot of people who have stakes in the business of school lunch and I really stepped into a hornets nest when I stepped into that. And I think I was a bit naive about how much it could really change.&rdquo;</p><p>These realizations and the arrival of a second child prompted Wu, last December, to drop out of the school food reform movement. At least for the time being.</p><p>But for those still in the fight, like Cooper, there are at least five major challenges that remain:</p><p>&ldquo;Food, finance, facilities, human resources and marketing,&rdquo; Cooper said. &ldquo;We need to be able to find [food] and make sure that it&rsquo;s good. The USDA foods have to be healthy.</p><p>The idea that we can have highly processed foods in schools has to change, but if we are going to change that we need to have kitchens and we need to be able to cook. If you are going to go from chicken nuggets to roast chicken you need ovens.&rdquo;</p><p>Cooper notes that the USDA recently pledged $11 million for school kitchen upgrades, but she believes you&rsquo;d need about a 100 times that much to do what&rsquo;s really necessary.</p><p>This lack of funding frustrates many food advocates who say that an investment up front can lay an early, healthy food foundation for the nation&rsquo;s most vulnerable children. They lament that in the last round of school lunch funding, Congress allocated just 6 cents more per meal to the program.<br /><br />Waters worries this will have disastrous effects on many levels.</p><p>&ldquo;There is hardly a country on this planet that doesn&rsquo;t think of food as something important and people are willing to pay for it,&rdquo; Waters says. &ldquo;But in this country we are unwilling to pay for it. But when you have cheap food somebody pays for it. We pay for it with our health, but we really pay for it in the destruction of our environment and the wages of the people who grow that food.&rdquo;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>Lack of money is a common complaint for school food caterers. They say that, when all is said and done, they&#39;re left with only about $1 to spend on food per meal. Many cite that as the main reason they turn to processed patties and nuggets. But Paul Boundas, whose <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2011-03-17/news/ct-met-healthy-school-lunch-man-20110317_1_school-kitchen-meals-national-school-lunch-program">Country House catering serves lunch to thousands of Chicago Catholic </a>school students each day (even in majority low income schools), says a caterer can actually save on food costs by cooking whole foods from scratch each day. Boundas adds, however, that the caterer must be ready to invest in local jobs and a skilled work force rather than processed foods.&nbsp;</p><p>One last obstacle for change is the fact that districts lose federal money when kids don&rsquo;t take the meals. This presents a strong financial incentive to keep the nuggets and shun fresh food experimentation. For this reason, Cooper says it&rsquo;s essential to make healthy delicious, and then educate the kids about why they should eat them.<br /><br />&ldquo;In Boulder right now we are doing 200 to 300 events a year,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;We go into the cafeteria and work with the kids. We do Rainbow Days, we do tastings, we do chef demos, we do Iron Chef competitions. We work with kids on a daily basis to try new things. And that&rsquo;s how we&rsquo;re going to make the change. We&rsquo;re not just going to give them high fat, high sugar, high salt unhealthy food because that&rsquo;s what they think they want. Because that would not be an educational situation.&rdquo;<br /><br />But the question remains: If Chicago Public Schools ditched their processed food for something healthier, would they meet weeping and wailing, or would the children get on board?</p><p>There&rsquo;s only way way to find out.</p><p><em>(Full disclosure: One of Monica Eng&rsquo;s nine siblings works for a food company subcontracted by CPS to cater pre-prepared meals to many CPS schools without full kitchens.)</em></p><p><em><span id="docs-internal-guid-0f241261-60a9-d4d2-9ee7-48352a3b634d">Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the Chewing The Fat podcast. Follow her at</span><a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng"> @monicaeng</a> or write to her at meng@wbez.org</em></p></p> Mon, 14 Apr 2014 09:28:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/has-decade-school-food-reform-resulted-healthier-lunches-110018 How is the new chow in CPS schools? http://www.wbez.org/news/how-new-chow-cps-schools-109272 <p><p>After more than a decade with the same lunch provider, Chicago Public Schools hired a new catering company, Aramark, to produce its school food this year.</p><p>The new caterer promised to boost sales, make tastier food and even serve up organic salad every day. It&rsquo;s been three months since Aramark launched its menus in the district and we thought it was time to see how it&rsquo;s going.</p><p>Wednesday on Afternoon Shift we talk to Leslie Fowler, the director of nutritional support services at CPS, and a group of kids who are on a mission to improve wellness among CPS students.</p><p>Fowler, who worked for Aramark in Rochester, before becoming school food chief in Chicago says that Aramark has improved food and sales since taking over the $100 million-plus contract at CPS.</p><p>&ldquo;What Aramark offered was an opportunity to do organic salad in our schools and have one consistent menu across the district,&rdquo; she said.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/SCHOOL%20PIZZA.jpg" style="height: 400px; width: 300px; float: right;" title="CPS lunch (Courtesy of anonymous CPS students)" /></p><p>The administrator says that students seem to be enjoying the meals and notes that school lunch participation (meaning how many kids take lunch) is up 3 percent this year to 55 percent of students. Still, that&rsquo;s in a district where 88 percent of students qualify for free or reduced lunch.</p><p>Accounting has been a problem in the past with tallies of students lunch sales completed by hand each day. Fowler says that this will all be streamlined early next year when all schools go to a system of swipe cards that will allow students to pay electronically and for the district &ldquo;to enter the 21 Century.&rdquo;</p><p>In recent years the district, which, in 2009 was serving nachos and fries to high school kids every day, has undergone some changes aimed at healthier meals. Lunch sales have dropped off in those years and Fowler says that pizza and spicy chicken patties are still the top sellers but hopes to change that through education.</p><p>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the WBEZ podcast <a href="http://www.wbez.org/content/chewing-fat-podcast-louisa-chu-and-monica-eng" target="_blank">Chewing the Fat</a>. Follow her at <a href="http://twitter.com/monicaeng" target="_blank">@monicaeng</a></p></p> Wed, 27 Nov 2013 14:19:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/how-new-chow-cps-schools-109272 New CPS menu includes ‘organic salad’ every day http://www.wbez.org/news/new-cps-menu-includes-%E2%80%98organic-salad%E2%80%99-every-day-108461 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/usda_lunch.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Fresh organic green salads will be offered to all Chicago Public School students every day of the upcoming school year, according to new 2013-2014 CPS menus obtained by WBEZ.</p><p>The lunch and breakfast menus offer a first glimpse of what the district&rsquo;s new caterer, Aramark, will serve more than 400,000 Chicago Public School children starting Aug. 26.</p><p>These daily organic romaine lettuce salads come as part of a food contract that saves the district $12 million over its last caterer. The menus, which cover the months of August and September, may change and could vary slightly from school to school. At the high school level, students are offered several options each day from various restaurant-style stations, such as &ldquo;Green Street Deli&rdquo; and &ldquo;Corner Crust Pizza.&rdquo; But not every school may offer every option.</p><p>Menu items of note include a &ldquo;breakfast for lunch&rdquo; entree of pancakes and sausage that will be served to at high schools twice every month and elementary schools once a month. High schoolers will also be offered new items such as bruschetta pizza, chicken and ham jambalaya and cheesy baked potatoes served with corn chips.</p><p>As part of a culinary theme featuring &quot;ingredients and flavors born in Chicago,&quot; the menus list a Mexican nacho bar, barbecued chicken pizza, taco pizza, a taco burger and &ldquo;Chicago beef sandwiches.&rdquo;</p><p>Without comment from CPS or Aramark officials, it was not immediately clear how taco pizza and taco burgers illustrated &ldquo;Chicago flavors.&rdquo;</p><p>In a nod to a Latino population that makes up the largest demographic (44 percent) of the CPS student body and the growing popularity of spicy snacks among American teens in general, high school menus feature a consistent &quot;Tortilla Fresh Mex&quot; selection and at least one item with jalapeños, salsa or buffalo sauce each week. &nbsp;</p><p>In honor of our famously dressed local wiener, Chicago style hot dogs appear on both the elementary and high school menus. High school students will also be offered several different styles of pizza every week.</p><p>The most popular item under CPS&rsquo;s previous vendor, Chartwells, was the &ldquo;spicy chicken sandwich.&rdquo; The new menus include some type of breaded chicken product every month for elementary schoolers and every week for high schoolers.</p><p>Elementary school selections will change daily, starting with chicken nuggets or &ldquo;dippin&rsquo; mozzarella sticks&quot; on the first day of school.</p><p>New USDA fruit and vegetable rules require that an orange or green vegetable be offered twice a week. Aramark&#39;s include french fries, tater tots, green pepper strips, corn, fresh broccoli, cinnamon sweet potatoes, sweet potato tots, steamed squash, collard greens, sweet potato fries, seasoned greens and tomato wedges.</p><p>Philadelphia based Aramark won the $100 million contract to cater CPS lunchrooms--the largest single such contract in North America--last spring despite protests from the district&#39;s previous caterer Chartwells Thompson. CPS had worked with Chartwells for more than a decade.</p><p>Chartwells had improved its menus, that at one time offered daily nachos for high schools, by sourcing more local produce and chicken raised without antibiotics to the menus. The company&#39;s regional chief, however, was <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-03-12/news/ct-met-cps-chartwells-investigation-0312-20120312_1_cps-students-cps-officials-chartwells-thompson-hospitality">criticized for giving unauthorized gifts</a> to the head of CPS food service, who <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-03-17/news/chi-cps-chief-brizard-seeks-to-fire-louise-esaian-head-of-schools-food-service-following-scandal-20120317_1_cps-employees-jean-claude-brizard-inspector-general-james-sullivan">resigned after an investigation</a> by the CPS Inspector General in the spring of 2012.</p><p><em>Monica Eng is a producer for WBEZ. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/monicaeng">@monicaeng</a>. Becky Vevea is a producer for WBEZ. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/beckyleah15">@beckyleah15</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 20 Aug 2013 09:20:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/new-cps-menu-includes-%E2%80%98organic-salad%E2%80%99-every-day-108461 Sandwich of my youth: Butter bologna http://www.wbez.org/blogs/louisa-chu/2012-09/sandwich-my-youth-butter-bologna-102364 <p><p style="text-align: center; "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/butterbolognaend.jpg" style="height: 399px; width: 600px; " title="Butter and bologna sandwich, with Gene’s Sausage Shop &amp; Deli housemade veal bologna (WBEZ/Louisa Chu)" /></p><p>On day three of the <a href="http://www.ctunet.com/">Chicago Teachers Union</a> strike, I heed Peter Sagal&#39;s call to remember the sandwiches of our youth.</p><p>Like you, I&#39;m an avid follower of <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/waitwait/"><em>Wait Wait...Don&#39;t blog me!</em></a>&#39;s&nbsp;Sandwich Monday feature. As you must know, each week they highlight a new sandwich (sometimes using the term <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/waitwait/2012/06/18/155295339/sandwich-monday-the-burger-king-bacon-sundae">loosely</a>)&nbsp;and this week they recreated the meal that made Peter who he is today: The&nbsp;<a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/waitwait/2012/09/10/160894104/sandwich-monday-sagal-sandwich">Sagal Sandwich</a>,&nbsp;featuring&nbsp;<a href="http://www.hebrewnational.com/">Hebrew National</a> salami on white bread with sweet pickle relish.&nbsp;</p><p>&quot;Every day during the 7th and 8th grade I would go into the lunchroom at Columbia Junior High School in Berkeley Heights, N.J., and unwrap the same sandwich,&quot; he said.</p><p>In Chicago school year terms, this would have been a year of 170 salami-sweet-pickle-relishes-on-white (up until this year, when the school year was <a href="http://www.cps.edu/News/Press_releases/Pages/09_07_2012_PR1.aspx">lengthened</a> to meet the national average of 180 days). Disturbing, yes? And sandwich was pre-made! Couldn&#39;t they have made it to order? Didn&#39;t it get soggy?</p><p>Much has been <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZeducation">said</a> about the dire state of our public schools &mdash; and their lunches. WBEZ&#39;s own Chip Mitchell <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/lunch-ladies-school-officials-dump-frozen-food-95793">reported</a> a&nbsp;story back in January about CPS foodworkers calling on the district to dump frozen food and let them cook. It makes a difference:&nbsp;&quot;More than eighty per cent of students in the Chicago school system qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, which is usually taken to be a measure of poverty,&quot; <a href="http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/comment/2012/09/american-teachers.html">wrote</a>&nbsp;<em>The New Yorker&#39;s&nbsp;</em>Rebecca Mead about the current strike.</p><p><span style="text-align: center; ">One of my own earliest taste memories</span><span style="text-align: center; ">&nbsp;</span><span style="text-align: center; ">&mdash;&nbsp;</span><span style="text-align: center; ">of a soft butter and bologna sandwich on even softer white bread&nbsp;</span><span style="text-align: center; ">&mdash;</span><span style="text-align: center; ">&nbsp;</span><span style="text-align: center; ">came from the hands of m</span><span style="text-align: center; ">y kindergarten teacher,</span><span style="text-align: center; ">&nbsp;the sainted Mrs. Shay. She only made this delicacy once, as far as I can recall, but that was enough. I remember watching her intently as she spread the perfectly tempered, salted butter smoothly from edge to edge; then as she covered the buttered bread with a single slice of round, pink bologna; before closing with another pristine, pillowy slice. She then cut the sandwich neatly into fourths, giving one section to each student.</span></p><p>The taste and texture was exotic for four year-old me; my mom and grandmother home-cooked Chinese food for every meal. The sense-awakening salt; the full, fatty butter; the fine, crumbed bread &mdash; this was an <em>amuse-bouche</em>&nbsp;for my little life.&nbsp;Now, whenever I make these same gestures &mdash; whether it&#39;s spreading&nbsp;<a href="http://www.movable-feast.com/2004/12/salon_saveurs_b.html"><em>beurre de baratte</em></a>, laying down charcuterie or biting into&nbsp;<em>pain de mie &mdash;&nbsp;</em>I can&#39;t help but think of that fleeting moment.</p><p>Despite the care with which my teacher prepared this simple sandwich, the practice would not be allowed in today&#39;s age of rigid food safety. Our school didn&#39;t have a lunchroom; I&#39;m not even sure where she even got the ingredients (or the recipe, for that matter &mdash; there doesn&#39;t seem to be a tradition of butter bologna sandwiches, even in the Midwest, though you will see its racier relation, the <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/louisa-chu/2012-08/eat-drink-102035">fried bologna sandwich</a>).</p><p>If the strike continues Thursday, CPS will extend the hours at <a href="http://cps.edu/childrenfirst/Pages/default.aspx">Children First</a> sites to provide a full six hour day, from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., during which breakfast and lunch will be served.</p><p>As the strike continues, I wonder: What sandwiches these youth will remember?</p><p style="text-align: center; "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/butterbolognabite.jpg" style="height: 399px; width: 600px; " title="Better than I remembered: the butter and bologna on white (WBEZ/Louisa Chu)" /></p></p> Wed, 12 Sep 2012 10:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/louisa-chu/2012-09/sandwich-my-youth-butter-bologna-102364 Lunch staffers to CPS: We want to cook http://www.wbez.org/story/lunch-ladies-school-officials-dump-frozen-food-95793 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//story/photo/2012-January/2012-01-24/cityroom_20100407_llutton_1648854_Chic_large.png.crop_display.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago schools are serving more healthy food than they were a couple years ago, but many kitchen workers seem to think the district still has a long way to go.</p><p>For the 2010-11 school year, Chicago Public Schools switched to menus with more whole grains, a wider array of vegetables, and less sodium, starch, sugar and fat. For the current school year, the district made its breakfast offerings more nutritious. The district says it’s also adding more salad bars.</p><p>A union that represents about 3,200 CPS food workers on Tuesday released survey findings suggesting that many students and even school principals are not eating the chow. UNITE HERE Local 1 criticized the district’s use of frozen food prepared off site, and called on the Board of Education to “ensure that all new school construction proj­ects are planned with full-size kitchen facilities capable of real cooking.”</p><p>Linda Green, a 22-year CPS employee who works in the Southwest Side’s Grimes Elementary kitchen, said students are eating less of what she serves than they once did. “There is a lot of waste because it’s just unappetizing,” said Green, who helped conduct the survey. “If it’s cooked on site you can use more seasoning and make it more flavorful.”</p><p>Local 1 said 436 CPS food employees completed the survey in December. According to the union, 42 percent felt that students were eating the new food, 50 percent reported they rarely or never had observed their principals eating their cafeteria’s lunch offerings, 75 percent indicated they had not had a chance to provide input about the new menu and recipes, 62 percent wanted more training on healthy food and 39 percent felt they could report food quality or safety concerns to parents or students without facing discipline.</p><p>A CPS statement says about a quarter of the district’s schools now serve food prepared mostly off site. The statement says that “all new elementary schools are being built with a warming kitchen” and that “all new middle and high schools are being built with cooking kitchens.”</p><p>“The food that is brought into the warming kitchen meets the same nutritional guidelines as the food in the cooking school model,” the statement adds. “We are committed to providing healthy and nutritious meals for all students at all schools. Delivery of this meal may depend on a variety of factors including kitchen capacity, facility size and condition as well as cost. However, nutritional standards are consistent across all schools. Vendors, regardless of delivery system, are expected to meet the same nutritional standards.”</p><p>The survey findings came as the U.S. Department of Agriculture planned a Wednesday unveiling of the first major changes in school meal standards in more than 15 years. The department says the new rules aim to reduce childhood obesity by “ensuring kids are offered fruits and vegetables every day of the week, substantially increasing offerings of whole grain-rich foods, offering only fat-free or low-fat milk varieties and making sure kids are getting proper portion sizes.”</p><p>A version of the guidelines the department proposed more than a year ago would also have cut down on potatoes, made it harder for schools to report pizza tomato paste as a vegetable, and halved the amount of sodium in school meals. In November, lawmakers blocked the department from carrying out those rules.</p></p> Wed, 25 Jan 2012 00:43:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/lunch-ladies-school-officials-dump-frozen-food-95793