WBEZ | School food http://www.wbez.org/tags/school-food Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Is School Food Too Healthful? http://www.wbez.org/sections/food/school-food-too-healthful-114638 <p><p>If you&rsquo;re tuned into the fights in Washington over school food these days, you might think students are eating nothing but lentils and kale.</p><p>Last week, the Senate agricultural committee voted to ease 2010 standards (limiting salt and requiring more whole grains) backed by Michelle Obama&rsquo;s &ldquo;Let&rsquo;s Move&rdquo; campaign. And later this year, the House of Representatives is expected to propose similar changes.</p><p>So that got me wondering: Have the new rules really changed school food that much?&nbsp; And what do the most popular entrees look like here in Obama&rsquo;s home district?</p><p>Despite six months of requests, Chicago Public Schools officials have refused to let me see a cafeteria. But I&rsquo;ve talked to lots of students about what they&rsquo;re eating, and then I went the official route with a Freedom of Information Act request to CPS for the top entreés it serves.</p><p>Turns out both efforts got the same answer. The top three dishes served in the district are--by far--highly processed, heat and serve chicken patties, cheeseburgers, and pizza.&nbsp; And that&rsquo;s under the nutrition rules considered overly strict by a lot of Washington lawmakers.&nbsp;</p><p>I also FOIAd ingredients for each item. They didn&rsquo;t look overly strict and healthful to me, but I wanted to be sure. So I took them to Dawn Jackson Blatner, a registered dietician and author.&nbsp; Blatner said she was impressed by the partial use of whole grain flour in the buns and chicken patty. She also approved of the fat grams in the burger and chicken dish. But that&rsquo;s pretty much where her admiration ended. Blatner didn&#39;t like the meat fillers (soy protein concentrate) in the &quot;chicken&quot; and &quot;beef.&quot; And, generally, she said the foods violated a rule she calls &ldquo;cut the CRAP.&rdquo;</p><p>CRAP&rsquo;s an acronym for Chemicals you don&rsquo;t cook with at home, Refined sugars, Artificial flavors and sweeteners and Preservatives.</p><p>&ldquo;So do I see CRAP in all of this?&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;Absolutely. Those are, to me, red flags that this is processed foods and definitely not something that should be an everyday occasion for anybody of any age.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p><p>Yet most of those entrees are being served every day to high schoolers and several times a week to grade school kids.</p><p>Chicago chef Sam Kass led the First Lady&rsquo;s Let&rsquo;s Move health and nutrition campaign that championed the 2010 rules.<br /><br />I asked if Chicago&rsquo;s Top 3 list of chicken patties, pizza and cheeseburgers surprise him:</p><p>&ldquo;No that doesn&rsquo;t surprise me,&rdquo; he said.&nbsp; &ldquo;I think what we know about that cheese pizza is that the crust is whole grain and the same with the bun of the burger. There is a lot less sodium and fat in the cheese and pizza.&rdquo;<br /><br />Still, these aren&rsquo;t the dishes Kass was dreaming of when he pushed for the rules six&nbsp; years ago.</p><p>&ldquo;Obviously the goal is to get our kids foods that are minimally processed and that are really healthy for them. So yes would I love to see just a chicken breast as opposed to a highly processed patty with lots of stuff in it. Of course. And a lot of districts are already doing it.&rdquo;<br />&nbsp;&nbsp;<br />These other districts are in places like Washington DC,&nbsp; New York and Oakland, Cal.,&nbsp; where pilot programs are helping kids swap processed meals for freshly cooked food.<br /><br />It&rsquo;s worth noting that Chicago schools also do some fresh cooking. Local cooks make things like broccoli and other vegetables. But, as part of a weird district rule, they&rsquo;re forbidden from ever using even a crystal of salt on that food. Intentionally or not, this ends up leaving a lot more room for salt in the processed foods--without blowing the federal limits on sodium per meal.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<br />&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<br />I asked Kass if he thought this was a bad use of salt overall?<br /><br />&ldquo;Yes,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;For the love of God, salt the broccoli! I think this shows what can come when we do more of the cooking ourselves&hellip; We can dramatically reduce the amount of salt in the burger patty and make sure that broccoli tastes good.&rdquo;</p><p>But moving from processed foods to more scratch cooking isn&rsquo;t easy. Most school food watchers agree it requires, at least, three important elements: school kitchens outfitted with the right equipment, a staff of trained cooks and a strong directive from the top to make the change. In a cash-strapped district like CPS, scratch cooking advocates are unlikely to find those elements.&nbsp;</p><p>While there is some federal funding available for kitchen equipment--including loans and grants specified in the Senate proposal--most agree it&rsquo;s not enough. National funds designated for 2016 school kitchen improvements add up to a mere $30 million. A recent Pew study estimated that it would take $200 million to outfit kitchens for healthier cooking in Illinois alone.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/sodium.jpg" style="height: 367px; width: 620px;" title="Buried in Chicago Public School’s 900 page contract with Aramark is this provision that forbids the use of salt in any meal preparation. Some believe this puts the salt-free vegetables at a disadvantage against the salty highly processed foods that dominate the menu. It also allows the processed food to be served without exceeding federal salt limits for the whole meal. (WBEZ/MONICA ENG)" /></div><p>While rural districts are often able to pull off freshly cooked meals, Diane Pratt-Heavner of the School Nutrition Association says it&rsquo;s tougher in city schools.</p><p>&ldquo;Quite often--especially in urban areas where the cost of labor is high and infrastructure can be old--schools simply don&rsquo;t have the labor or equipment to scratch prepare,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;So they are required to serve pre-prepared items.&rdquo;</p><p>Heavner&rsquo;s group is leading the charge against current rules. The SNA represents school food service managers and is sponsored by big food companies, which she says are there to help.</p><p>&ldquo;Food companies are really working to try to develop cleaner label items and to help schools meet these standards,&rdquo; she said noting that many of the items the companies develop to meet school food rules end up in grocery stores. These include the &ldquo;better for you&rdquo; whole grain, reduced fat Flamin&rsquo; Hot Cheeto.<br />&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<br />Where Congress will eventually come down on salt levels, whole grain percentages and vegetable frequency remains unclear. But what does seem clear is that the current debates are unlikely to get processed foods off the center of the plate in Chicago Public Schools any time soon.</p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ food reporter. Email her at meng@wbez.org Follower her <a href="http://twitter.com/monicaeng">@monicaeng</a>.</em></p></p> Fri, 29 Jan 2016 09:56:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/sections/food/school-food-too-healthful-114638 High Schoolers Get CPS’ Attention with Website and Lunch Boycott http://www.wbez.org/news/high-schoolers-get-cps%E2%80%99-attention-website-and-lunch-boycott-114102 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Roosevelt Lunch.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Nearly a thousand students skipped school lunch at Roosevelt High School on the North Side Monday.</p><p>It was part of their <a href="http://www.wbez.org/sections/food/chicago-high-schoolers-launch-website-against-school-food-113980">larger project </a>(which includes a petition and<a href="https://rhsschoollunch.wordpress.com/"> website)</a> to change food in Chicago Public Schools-- food they consider unhealthy and unappetizing.</p><p>Their civics teacher Tim Meegan said that 143 boycotted on Thursday and 437 (more than a third of students) boycotted on Friday, according to lunch staff counts. Monday that number blew up to 952 (or more than 80 percent of students), Meegan said late Monday afternoon.</p><p>It was harder for the teacher to check progress Monday morning when I visited the school. That&rsquo;s because he was outside with students unloading 10,000 bags of puffed rice granola donated by health group <a href="http://www.mercola.com/">Mercola.com</a>.</p><p>It joined a shipment of organic fruit and yogurt from Chicago&rsquo;s <a href="http://dillpickle.coop/">Dill Pickle Co-Op</a>.</p><p>&ldquo;This way we&rsquo;re well-stocked in case the kids need to continue the boycott,&rdquo; Meegan said, carrying boxes from a massive white truck.</p><p>The boxes were going into the school to be handed out to boycotting students. &nbsp;</p><p>Meegan said that, in addition to the food donations, &ldquo;We&rsquo;ve gotten messages of support from teachers, students and administrators at different school districts, [and] &nbsp;food justice groups from all over the country.&rdquo;</p><p>But the teacher and his students have also gotten push back. Last week CPS Nutrition Services head, Leslie Fowler, wrote to them asking for a meeting, but also implying that their boycott could cost the Roosevelt lunch staff pay.</p><p>&quot;Lunchroom staff are paid on a sliding scale based on meals served,&rdquo; confirmed CPS spokesperson Emily Bittner in an email to WBEZ, &ldquo;and their pay will be reduced for the next school year if a large number of meals are lost.&rdquo;</p><p>Louise Babbs who&rsquo;s a lunch worker and organizer for the CPS lunch workers union, Unite Local One, however, sent this statement:</p><blockquote><p><em>&quot;CPS lunch ladies are paid by the hour, and our members will faithfully report to work regardless because the kids come first. We&#39;ve been fighting for good fresh food for years, and we support any efforts on the part of students to do the same.&quot;</em></p></blockquote><p>WBEZ is continuing to investigate the question of commissions for lunch workers based on the number of meals taken.</p><p>Meegan accused the district&rsquo;s food service company Aramark &nbsp;of trying undermine the boycott Friday by sending in premium produce.</p><p>&ldquo;I came out here for my lunch 5th period and there was a [Anthony] Murano food company truck that delivered fresh produce to the cafeteria,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;They had beautiful fresh fruits and vegetables from one of the premier produce distributors in Chicago. I only wish they would continue that effort, but instead they brought in that excellent food in order to dissuade kids from boycotting.&rdquo;</p><p>The students took pictures of the truck and the produce it allegedly delivered to their cafeteria, and posted on<a href="https://rhsschoollunch.wordpress.com/2015/12/04/food-fight/"> their site here.</a></p><p>Aramark, however, said that it has never used Murano as a supplier and doesn&rsquo;t know why the truck was spotted on Roosevelt property.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p dir="ltr" lang="en">Broccoli is supposed to be green, like grass...<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/dishorditch?src=hash">#dishorditch</a> !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! <a href="https://t.co/uSRaKqSlSQ">pic.twitter.com/uSRaKqSlSQ</a></p>&mdash; ANA M.MONTOYA (@anamontoya471) <a href="https://twitter.com/anamontoya471/status/672829869689085952">December 4, 2015</a></blockquote><p>&nbsp;</p><p>Late Monday, CPS sent a statement saying:</p><blockquote><p><em>&ldquo;CPS has a school lunch program that provides healthy, nutritious lunches at no cost to students throughout the district. Not only does CPS exceed federal nutrition guidelines, we also enjoy working with student and parent groups to test our meals and develop menus. CPS is happy to work with the students of Roosevelt to hear their concerns and address their needs, and look forward to meeting with them this week.&rdquo;</em></p></blockquote><p>Before I left the school on Monday, I noticed a few kids munching on the donated granola and asked how they liked it.</p><p>&ldquo;Pretty good,&rdquo; said Rudy Cavillo. &ldquo;I think it&rsquo;s pretty nice that they are actually giving students this food&hellip; Usually we just skip breakfast and lunch and just like starve to death and then go home and eat.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Monica Eng is a food and health reporter for WBEZ. Follow her at<a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng" target="_blank"> @monicaeng </a>or write to her at meng@wbez.org</em></p></p> Tue, 08 Dec 2015 15:19:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/high-schoolers-get-cps%E2%80%99-attention-website-and-lunch-boycott-114102 Chicago High Schoolers Launch Website Against School Food http://www.wbez.org/sections/food/chicago-high-schoolers-launch-website-against-school-food-113980 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Foodfight.png" alt="" /><p><p>Two years ago, something pretty revolutionary happened in Chicago Public Schools.</p><p>The district made every meal in nearly every CPS lunchroom free for every student.</p><p>The idea was to end the mountains of <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-01-13/news/ct-met-cps-lunch-fraud-20120113_1_free-lunches-reduced-price-lunches-lunch-applications">sometimes fraudulent</a> lunch paperwork, move lunch lines faster, reduce stigma on low-income kids and make it easier for everyone to get a school meal.</p><p>Given the new federally subsidized program, officials expected to see a big bump in the number of kids who take the meals.</p><p>But that&rsquo;s not at all what happened.</p><p>Instead, that number dropped by about a million lunches in the first year and more than 800,000 in the second, according to CPS records (The drop did accompany enrollment declines in the district but outpaced them).</p><p>So what happened? Why would so many kids reject food that had become completely free for everyone?</p><p>&ldquo;Because that food is disgusting,&rdquo; said one North Side high schooler who recently talked to me in a lunchroom while munching Flamin&rsquo; Hot Cheetos with a Powerade. She didn&rsquo;t want to share her name.</p><p>Junior Shirley Hernandez will share her name. She&rsquo;s one of the honors civics students (taught by Roosevelt High School&rsquo;s Tim Meegan) who this month launched the <a href="https://rhsschoollunch.wordpress.com">School Lunch Project </a>website and a <a href="http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/petition-to-improve-school?source=c.em.cp&amp;r_by=14594209">petition </a>to change food in the district. Students complain of brown lettuce, soggy gray broccoli, plastic found in burgers and frozen, mealy fruit.</p><p>They say it&rsquo;s unhealthy, unappetizing and overly processed.</p><p>&ldquo;We want bigger portions, more nutritious food and [food] partly handmade from scratch,&rdquo; Hernandez said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s a human right to have decent food, not the lowest quality of food.&rdquo;</p><p>If CPS and its caterer Aramark (which also arrived two years ago) can&rsquo;t produce better food, the Roosevelt students say they want permission to eat off campus or even go home for lunch as other Chicago students have done in the past or currently do.</p><p>As it stands today, the students are presented with a menu of mostly processed fast food dominated by pizza, burgers and chicken patties. And Roosevelt civics student Duyen Ho believes this could create problems for their long-term health.</p><p>&ldquo;The fact that we eat fast food every day is going to affect us in the long term,&rdquo; said Ho. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s going to affect us a lot.&rdquo;</p><p>Recent changes to the National School Lunch Program have required that the meals deliver less fat and sodium and more fiber than previous lunches. But CPS records show that the three most frequently served entrees &mdash; pizza, cheeseburgers and chicken patties &mdash; are still <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/cps-reveals-only-ingredients-its-chicken-nuggets-arechicken-nuggets-109963">full of preservatives, fillers, stabilizers and additives.</a></p><p>The School Lunch Project website details these ingredients, shares links to research materials (including some written by this reporter) and offers a gallery of sometimes graphic lunch photos. So far the site has gained attention and comments from parents, students, teachers and a even a supportive CPS principal. &nbsp;</p><p>The CPS central office sent a statement to WBEZ saying &ldquo;the health and wellness of our students is among our top priorities, and we will look into the students&rsquo; questions about their meals.&rdquo;</p><p>Aramark, for its part, says it became aware of the website through social media and is &ldquo;looking into it with CPS and the principal.&rdquo; &nbsp;But the company said it had not heard about the specific complaints listed on the site from staff or students directly.</p><p>Still, this week the Roosevelt students plan to take their protest beyond the online world. They&rsquo;re planning a schoolwide lesson on school food Wednesday followed by lunch boycotts among upperclassman Thursday and Friday. Next Monday, they say, they plan to take the lunch boycott schoolwide, and even to partnering schools.</p><p>CPS and Aramark get a $3.15 federal payment (that they share) for each school lunch a student takes, so thousands of students brown-bagging it for even a day could cost them several thousand dollars.</p><p>&ldquo;I think it&rsquo;s especially important for young people in Chicago &mdash; where we see so much corruption, cronyism and nepotism &mdash; that they learn how to make change within large organizations,&rdquo; said Tim Meegan, who&rsquo;s taught at the Albany Park school for 14 years. &ldquo;This is just one of many diverse tactics that we are trying to teach young people so they are fully equipped to participate as citizens in a democratic society.&rdquo;</p><p>Meegan&rsquo;s not your average mild-mannered instructor.This year he <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/politics/ct-33rd-ward-lawsuit-met-20150303-story.html">ran for alderman</a> in the 33rd ward, backed by the Chicago Teachers Union. And last month some of his students <a href="http://chicago.suntimes.com/news-chicago/7/71/1014017/roosevelt-high-school-students-walk-out-protest-cuts">staged a walkout</a> to protest budget cuts in the district. Meegan says he asked his five civics classes to come up with a project to work on this year. Across the board, he says, they wanted to work on changing school lunch.</p><p>The Roosevelt lunch protest adds to a chorus of complaints about school food that have appeared this year in the <a href="http://www.hancockhs.org/apps/news/show_news.jsp?REC_ID=374953&amp;id=0">Hancock High School newspaper </a>&nbsp;and by CPS students who&rsquo;ve shared photos of their <a href="https://twitter.com/search?q=%23dishorditch&amp;src=typd">lunch on Twitter</a>.</p><p>Still, few CPS food protests have garnered this level of attention. Tim Meegan says last week he got a call from the city&rsquo;s school board asking to arrange a meeting with the civics class students. &nbsp;</p><p><em>Monica Eng is a food and health reporter for WBEZ. Follow her at </em><a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng"><em>@monicaeng </em></a><em>or write to her at </em><a href="mailto:meng@wbez.org"><em>meng@wbez.org</em></a></p></p> Mon, 30 Nov 2015 08:32:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/sections/food/chicago-high-schoolers-launch-website-against-school-food-113980 Is a national policy on school milk boosting lunchtime waste? http://www.wbez.org/news/national-policy-school-milk-boosting-lunchtime-waste-113813 <p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">One day this fall, first grader Russell Muchow brought his usual bagged lunch from home to Kellogg Elementary School in the far Southwest Side Beverly neighborhood. &nbsp;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">When it came time for lunch, he wanted to have a cold milk. But when he asked for a carton in the lunch line, his mom Molly Muchow says Russell was told, &ldquo;in order to take the milk (he) had to take the lunch.&rdquo;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/20151103_122235_resized.jpg" style="height: 500px; width: 281px; margin-left: 10px; margin-right: 10px; float: right;" title="Inside school garbage can. (WBEZ/Monica Eng)" />But the 6-year-old already had a lunch and if he took a second one, he&rsquo;d just have to throw it away. It didn&rsquo;t make sense to him. So when he got home, Molly Muchow says, &ldquo;he was distraught&rdquo; over being told he had to take food he couldn&#39;t eat. &ldquo;That is not what we teach them at home. We don&rsquo;t throw out food. That is unacceptable.&rdquo;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">Muchow says she called up the Kellogg school &nbsp;lunch director (Chicago Public Schools officials did not respond to WBEZ requests to interview the lunch director.) and basically got the same message: kids can&rsquo;t take free milk unless they take the whole meal.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">&ldquo;So I said I&rsquo;d just pay for the milk extra,&rdquo; Muchow recalled. &ldquo;And [the lunch director] told me it would actually be better for me to have him take the lunch even if he was going to throw it out, for budget reasons, and numbers and for them.&rdquo;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">This may sound outrageous from a food waste perspective, but from a school money angle, it&rsquo;s true.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">That&rsquo;s because for each child who takes the full meal &mdash; which includes an entree with milk and a side of fruits or vegetables</span>&nbsp;&mdash; the U.S. Department of Agriculture pays CPS $3.15, which it shares with the food service company Aramark.</p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">But if a child just takes a milk, the district and Aramark get nothing from the feds.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">The situation recently dominated a Kellogg Local School Council meeting, but it&rsquo;s an issue that&rsquo;s rooted in federal policy.</span></p><p dir="ltr">&quot;In order for it to be a reimbursable meal by USDA the lunch needs to include all the meal components,&quot; explained USDA regional administrator Tim English. &quot;And that would be a grain, vegetable or fruit, milk and meat or meat alternate. The idea is that we want to provide kids who are taking school lunch with a well-rounded meal.&quot;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/8546053033_e95eaad450_k.jpg" style="text-align: center; height: 349px; width: 620px;" title="Students and parents at a Chicago public school say that when kids just want a single part of a meal--like a milk to go with a home lunch--they are pushed to take an entire free lunch. The full meal triggers payment from the federal government. Some think this could be generating a lot of food waste in schools. (flickr/USDA)" /></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">But it means kids who just want an egg or banana at breakfast, for instance, must take the rest of the meal, even if it&rsquo;s tossed in the garbage.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">Starting last school year, most &nbsp;districts across the country like Chicago&rsquo;s, with a lot of low-income students, adopted the Community Eligibility Provision. That&rsquo;s a USDA program that &nbsp;makes all meals free to all students in the school or district regardless of income. This reduces mountains of free lunch application paperwork and the need to collect money in the lunchroom.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">Students still have the ability to pay 45 cents for milk out of pocket each day. But Northwestern University economist and professor of social policy Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach says the policy doesn&#39;t make that likely.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">&ldquo;Under these circumstances, if you&rsquo;re getting the same thing and you can choose to pay for it or you can choose to get it for free the vast majority of people will choose to get the same item for free instead of paying for it,&rdquo; she said.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">&ldquo;The incentives here are certainly for kids to take what&rsquo;s free and then wastefully dispose of it,&rdquo; she continued, &ldquo;so it seems like there&rsquo;s room for a policy improvement so that kids can get just the milk for free instead of taking the whole meal and then throw part of it away.&rdquo;&nbsp;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">That policy change would require an act of Congress &mdash; which happens to be reviewing the rules around school lunch right now, albeit at a slow pace.</span></p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/nutritionists-raise-glass-whole-milk-new-dietary-guidelines-113390" target="_blank"><span style="display: none;">&nbsp;</span><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/8542429717_dfe01d4a07_k.jpg" style="height: 207px; width: 310px; float: left; margin-left: 10px; margin-right: 10px;" title="The Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture have teamed up to revise the country’s dietary guidelines, as they have every five years since 1980. They aim to drop the longstanding limit on total fat consumption, which could clear the way for whole milk in school meal programs. (flickr/USDA)" /><span style="display: none;">&nbsp;</span></a></div></div><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">There is, however, a window for a quicker fix. CPS could choose to pick up the 45 cent tab when a student wants just a milk, making the less wasteful option an easy option (We found at least one district in Ohio where the superintendent says he decided to start doing this two months ago in response to food waste).</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">Still, CPS rejects the idea, saying it would just cost too much. And, to be fair, this appears to be the stance of most districts across the nation, according to Tim English, the USDA director for the Midwest.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">So if free milk won&rsquo;t be an option in the district, how are the existing choices presented to students? Are kids told they can bring money to buy a milk? Are they encouraged to take more than they want? </span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>We asked CPS to explain exactly how lunch staff are told to present the options, but officials would not talk to us about it. The district also would not give us permission to talk to the Kellogg lunch staff about the procedure they follow on the matter.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">Kellogg parent Jill Zayauskas says she pretty clear about the way the options are handled at her school, and it makes her mad.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">&ldquo;My son was five when he first saw this and if a five-year-old knows wasting food is wrong then the people who plan this program should know that,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;I just don&rsquo;t understand why children are forced to throw away a complete lunch to get chocolate milk and actually encouraged to do that so someone can make their quota. It&rsquo;s all about money&rdquo;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">About half of the money for each meal goes to food service company Aramark, which receives $1.31 for each lunch taken.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">Kellogg mom Emily Lambert says students are getting mixed messages, right when they&rsquo;re in the middle of a food drive.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">&ldquo;My son is coming home every day asking to take food to school to give food to people who don&rsquo;t have it, while in the lunchroom they&#39;re throwing it away,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;They understand that it&rsquo;s wrong to throw away food that you have and you aren&rsquo;t going to eat.&rdquo; &nbsp;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">The USDA is also in the middle of its own campaign to reduce food waste by 50 percent in 15 years.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><em><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">Monica Eng is a WBEZ food and health reporter. Contact her at </span><a href="mailto:meng@wbez.org">meng@wbez.org</a> or follow her on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng">@monicaeng</a></em></p></p> Tue, 17 Nov 2015 05:17:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/national-policy-school-milk-boosting-lunchtime-waste-113813 Flamin' Hot Cheetos top some Chicago Public School vending machines http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/flamin-hot-cheetos-top-some-chicago-public-school-vending-machines-111773 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/cheetos.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Last week Michigan became the latest state to opt out of the federal Smart Snack standards. The rules regulate what can be sold in school fundraisers and vending machines that help schools pay the bill. More than 22 states have pushed for some kind of exemption from these rules since they went into effect last July.</p><p>So just how stringent are they?</p><p>The snacks must be:</p><ul><li>&ldquo;whole grain rich&rdquo; if they are grain-based, meaning 50 percent whole grain</li><li>no more than 200 calories</li><li>no more than 230 mgs of sodium</li><li>no more than 35 percent sugar, by weight</li><li>lower in fat, meaning no more than a third of their calories can come from fat</li></ul><p>So all that&rsquo;s left is kale, right?</p><p>Well, not really. In fact, under these new rules, two of the top sellers in some Chicago Public Schools are reformulated Flamin&rsquo; Hot Cheetos and Kellogg&rsquo;s Pop Tarts. This is not exactly what Dr. Virginia Stallings envisioned when she chaired the Institute of Medicine committee whose recommendations would form the backbone of the Smart Snack rules.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;I thought the top sellers might be things that had more nutrients in them than Flamin&rsquo; Hot Cheetos,&rdquo; said Stallings, who is a professor of pediatrics at Childrens Hospital of Philadelphia. &ldquo;But let me say that one of the things we were absolutely expecting and appreciate is that the food companies would look at these recommendations and they would, in fact, reformulate their products.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p><p>To Stallings, the reformulated Cheetos, in smaller portions, with more whole grain, less sodium and less fat, represent an evidence-based improvement over the old formula.</p><p>But to folks like Lindsey Haynes-Maslow, a health analyst for the Union of Concerned Scientists, the snacks represent&nbsp;&nbsp; mixed messages to kids.<br /><br />&ldquo;I think it says to them that, of course, I can eat these. And when they are outside the school, if they see the same item at a grocery store, they don&rsquo;t recognize the difference,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;Even more concerning, is that their parents don&rsquo;t either, according to a Rudd Center study showing that many parents are misguided into thinking that these [reformulated] items are good for their kids.&rdquo;</p><p>To see this in action, all you have to do is drop by a Chicago Public high school vending machine where reformulated Pop Tarts and Flamin&rsquo; Hot Cheeto Puffs occupy several slots. In an interview with WBEZ Wednesday, CPS&rsquo;s head of Nutrition Services Leslie Fowler said she had no idea schools were selling the snacks.</p><p>The district, she said, has prohibited reformulated snacks for about a year. Still, a list of approved snacks that CPS provided to WBEZ on Wednesday includes Baked Cheetos and Reduced Fat Nilla Wafers. Another list the district sent to WBEZ earlier Wednesday included reduced fat Cool Ranch Doritos as an approved snack. But when WBEZ noted that snack was also &ldquo;reformulated,&rdquo; the CPS official claimed she&rsquo;d given us the wrong list.</p><p>To add to the confusion, Fowler told WBEZ Wednesday that the &ldquo;only Cheeto that is approved is the whole grain puff,&rdquo; which are not included on the latest list but are featured in several district machines.</p><p>Regardless of what CPS rules actually are, it&rsquo;s clear that the much maligned Smart Snack rules still leave plenty of room for things like reformulated Flamin Hot Cheetos. And while it&rsquo;s true the reformulation reduces fat and salt, the snacks still feature six artificial colors and nearly 30 ingredients.</p><p>New York University Nutrition professor Marion Nestle thinks part of the problem is that the rules encourage companies to hit certain nutrient numbers rather than providing real food.&nbsp;&nbsp;<br /><br />&ldquo;This is a classic case of nutritionism,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;If you set up nutrition standards, the food industry can do anything to meet those standards and this is a perfect example of that...So this is a better-for-you junk food. And, of course, the question is: is that a good choice? And no, of course, it&rsquo;s not.&rdquo;&nbsp;<br /><br />When asked to discuss the issue, Cheeto maker Frito Lay would not grant WBEZ an interview. Instead, the company wrote &ldquo;We offer a variety of Smart Snack compliant products in schools in portion-controlled sizes to suit a variety of tastes, including the Reduced Fat, Whole Grain Rich Flamin&#39; Hot Cheetos.&rdquo;</p><p>Lane Tech Senior Tyra Bosnic said she&rsquo;s disappointed in the vending machines at her school. She wished they better mirrored the machines she&rsquo;s seen in Europe.<br /><br />&ldquo;They have better drinks there and there&rsquo;s more water accessible,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;There they have things like pumpkin seeds in the machines. Here we just have gross, whole grain Pop Tarts and Cheeto Puffs.&rdquo;<br /><br />The U.S. Department of Agriculture said it couldn&rsquo;t comment on the wisdom of selling Cheetos at school, but that its latest rules have already helped kids eat &ldquo;healthier.&rdquo;<br /><br />It&rsquo;s not just kids who are drawn to the&nbsp; orange curly snacks. For cash strapped school administrators, Cheetos can&nbsp; deliver plenty of green. Under the current CPS deal with Avcoa Vending, schools&nbsp; get a 20 percent commission on all sales; and that can add up to more than $10,000 in discretionary spending a year. So, why not stock this teenage favorite?</p><p>&ldquo;Because schools have an obligation to teach children how to be successful adults,&rdquo; says Rochelle Davis of Chicago&rsquo;s Healthy Schools Campaign. &ldquo;And learning about how to be healthy is a critical part of that.&rdquo;</p><p>Still, one vending machine rep noted that kids are going to buy Cheetos at the corner store and that few entities need money more than schools. Stallings, who wrote the original recommendations, questions whether schools should be selling any snacks at all.</p><p>&ldquo;Selling food to children outside of the school lunch and breakfast should not be a source of revenue for the school,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s exploiting the children&rsquo;s health.&rdquo;</p><p>Instead, advocates like Rochelle Davis of Chicago&rsquo;s Healthy Schools Campaign suggest raising the revenue through things like plant sales and dance-a-thons.</p><p>&ldquo;I just got an email about a school trying a dance-a-thon,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;So the kids are going to be up and moving and the community is going to be supporting that instead of a traditional fundraiser.&rdquo;</p><p>But can a dance-a-thon rake in the cash like Flamin&rsquo; Hot Cheetos? With all the resistance against even these initial rules, it may be some time before we get to find out.&nbsp;</p><p><em>Clarification, 3/26/2015: After this story was published Chicago Public Schools officials claimed CPS uses vendors other than Avcoa. They have not yet responded who those vendors are.</em></p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the Chewing The Fat podcast. Follow her at</em><a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng"> <em>@monicaeng</em></a> <em>or write to her at meng@wbez.org</em></p></p> Thu, 26 Mar 2015 11:23:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/flamin-hot-cheetos-top-some-chicago-public-school-vending-machines-111773 CPS doesn’t know how much sugar is in kids’ meals http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-doesn%E2%80%99t-know-how-much-sugar-kids%E2%80%99-meals-110079 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/132244825_dbf0e21d9f_z.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>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. &nbsp;This far exceeds the sugar limits set by the American Heart Association for grown women over an entire day. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>UPDATE: May 2: Tim O&#39;Brien of the Illinois Attorney General&#39;s office tells WBEZ that he is contacting Chicago Public Schools about the district&#39;s failure to complete our Freedom of Information Act request --particularly when it comes to revealing how much sugar is in CPS food. &nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>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.</p><p>In fact, the Harvard School of Public Health says that &ldquo;Rising consumption of sugary drinks has been a major contributor to the obesity epidemic.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p><p>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)&nbsp; is such a non-issue to school food authorities that Chicago Public Schools don&rsquo;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.</p><p>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&rsquo;s 50 most served foods and their nutrients. When the FOIA was finally answered, many things, including sugar levels, were missing.</p><p>Today, seven weeks after filing the FOIA request, WBEZ learned that the district doesn&rsquo;t &ldquo;collect&rdquo; and subsequently doesn&rsquo;t know how much sugar it&rsquo;s serving up to Chicago children.</p><p>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&rsquo;d heard of it.</p><p>It&rsquo;s unknown how much sugar is in the CPS &ldquo;syrup pancake cup&rdquo; or strawberry pancakes or French toast sticks, but it is known that Danimals yogurt cups contain 13 grams of sugar per serving. That&rsquo;s more than half of what the American Heart Association recommends for a grown woman&rsquo;s daily diet.</p><p>We&rsquo;ll keep you updated on our quest for data on Chicago Public School food here.</p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the Chewing The Fat podcast. Follow her at <a href="https://www.google.com/url?q=https%3A%2F%2Ftwitter.com%2Fmonicaeng&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNGoYzy7NkmnMSoIdG75anzNVCJ90A">@monicaeng</a> or write to her at meng@wbez.org</em></p></p> Fri, 25 Apr 2014 16:03:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-doesn%E2%80%99t-know-how-much-sugar-kids%E2%80%99-meals-110079 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 CPS reveals that the only ingredients in its chicken nuggets are...chicken nuggets! http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/cps-reveals-only-ingredients-its-chicken-nuggets-arechicken-nuggets-109963 <p><p>Almost all the meals served in the Chicago Public Schools are paid for with your tax dollars. But if you want to know what&rsquo;s actually in those meals, good luck.</p><p>Early last month WBEZ filed a Freedom of Information Act request for data on what CPS students were eating. On Tuesday, WBEZ finally received an answer, if you can call it that.</p><p>What follows is the district&rsquo;s verbatim response to our FOIA&nbsp; request for the &ldquo;ingredient lists for the top five entrees in the CPS food service program.&quot;&nbsp;</p><table border="0" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0"><tbody><tr><td nowrap="nowrap" style="width:207px;height:20px;"><p align="center"><strong>Entrée Item</strong></p></td><td nowrap="nowrap" style="width:368px;height:20px;"><p align="center"><strong>Ingredient List</strong></p></td></tr><tr><td nowrap="nowrap" style="width:207px;height:20px;"><p>Chicken Patty Sandwich</p></td><td nowrap="nowrap" style="width:368px;height:20px;"><p>Chicken Patty, Bun</p></td></tr><tr><td nowrap="nowrap" style="width:207px;height:20px;"><p>Chicken &amp; Bean Nachos</p></td><td nowrap="nowrap" style="width:368px;height:20px;"><p>Chicken Crumbles, Tortilla Chips, Cheese Sauce, Beans</p></td></tr><tr><td nowrap="nowrap" style="width:207px;height:20px;"><p>Chicken Nuggets</p></td><td nowrap="nowrap" style="width:368px;height:20px;"><p>Chicken Nuggets</p></td></tr><tr><td nowrap="nowrap" style="width:207px;height:20px;"><p>Cheeseburger</p></td><td nowrap="nowrap" style="width:368px;height:20px;"><p>Bun, Beef Patty, American Cheese</p></td></tr><tr><td nowrap="nowrap" style="width:207px;height:20px;"><p>Penne with Marinara Meat Sauce</p></td><td nowrap="nowrap" style="width:368px;height:20px;"><p>Penne, Marinara, Beef Crumbles</p></td></tr></tbody></table><p>Yes, you read it correctly: The complete ingredient list for CPS chicken nuggets is two words: &ldquo;chicken nuggets.&rdquo; And it took more than a month for CPS Nutrition Support Services to figure this out.</p><p>When I last did a story on popular CPS lunch items for the <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Farticles.chicagotribune.com%2F2011-02-20%2Fhealth%2Fct-met-new-school-lunches-20110220_1_cps-students-chartwells-thompson-healthy-food&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNG2I3jbVb45SdZO7ve-7pVkO5ePRg">Chicago Tribune in 2011</a>, the district&rsquo;s spicy chicken patty contained dozens of ingredients, many too hard to pronounce. But, miraculously, CPS and its new caterer Aramark have pared the district&rsquo;s number one food item down to just two ingredients: a chicken patty and a bun, according to the district&rsquo;s response.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/CPS%20spicy%20chicken%20patty.jpg" style="margin-left: 5px; margin-right: 5px; height: 210px; width: 280px; float: left;" title="A chicken patty sandwich is the most eaten entree in Chicago Public Schools. But what’s in it? After a month, CPS will only disclose that it contains a chicken patty and a bun. Thanks CPS. (WBEZ/Monica Eng)" />A few years ago, the advocacy group Real Food For Kids criticized the <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.npr.org%2Fblogs%2Fthesalt%2F2012%2F04%2F02%2F149717358%2Fwhats-inside-the-26-ingredient-school-lunch-burger&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNGprtGWU49odQw1FT4Nn-B2pMTMsw">26-ingredient burger</a> served in American schools and called on districts to phase out such heavily processed foods in lunch programs. According to the ingredient lists WBEZ received from the district, CPS has bested the 26-ingredient burger by 23 ingredients, by listing only three in its burger: a bun, a patty and (if it&rsquo;s a cheeseburger) American cheese.</p><p>Is this an accurate picture of CPS entree ingredients? We can&rsquo;t tell. Because, although WBEZ responded almost immediately with emails and phone calls seeking an explanation for these limited ingredient lists, the district has, as of yet, offered none. Yesterday, one district representative said he would try to contact the head of school food, Leslie Fowler, to determine what happened. But we&rsquo;ve heard nothing back since then.</p><p>I have covered CPS food for at least five years now, and have met with my share of district resistance to sharing information. But this latest development shocked even me.</p><p>At least previous administrations were willing to share details on what our tax dollars were buying for school lunch. This one, however, seems bent on keeping the public in the dark. But why?</p><p>It should be noted that CPS&rsquo;s response arrived on April 1st. One can only hope this mockery of the Freedom of Information Act was all just some kind of joke.</p><p>We will keep you updated on CPS&rsquo;s response here.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>UPDATE: A CPS representative said Friday he would try to obtain the missing information, but would not say when. On Monday the district had still not produced the missing data, and WBEZ filed a request with the Illinois Attorney General&#39;s office to review the situation and assist in releasing the ingredient information.&nbsp;</p><p>Here are the complete ingredient lists that CPS finally turned over after state law enforcement got involved in the case.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><em>Chicken Patty Sandwich</em></p><p><strong>Chicken Patty</strong>:</p><p>Chicken, water, textured soy protein concentrate, isolated soy protein, seasoning [brown sugar, salt, onion powder, chicken stock, canola oil, yeast extract, carrot powder, vegetable stock (carrot, onion, celery), garlic powder, maltodextrin, flavors, silicon dioxide, citric acid and spice], seasoning (potassium chloride, rice flour), sodium phosphates. BREADED WITH: Whole wheat flour, water, enriched wheat flour (wheat flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), salt, wheat gluten, sugar, dried onion, dried garlic, torula yeast, spice, dextrose, dried yeast, turmeric extract (color), paprika extract (color). Breading set in vegetable oil</p><p><strong>Chicken Patty Bun</strong>:</p><p>Water, Whole Wheat Flour, Enriched Wheat Flour (Wheat Flour, Malted Barley Flour, Niacin, Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Sugar, Wheat Gluten, Yeast, Soybean Oil, Contains 2% or less of the following: Salt, Dough Conditioners (Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Monoglycerides, Ascorbic Acid, Calcium Peroxide, Azodicarbonamide), Potassium Sorbate and Calcium Propionate (Preservatives), Yeast Nutrients (Monocalcium Phosphate, Calcium Sulfate, Ammonium Sulfate)</p><p><em>Chicken and Bean Nachos</em></p><p><strong>Chicken Taco Meat</strong>:</p><p>Dark chicken meat, seasoning (wheat flour, maltodextrin, salt, dried garlic, chili pepper, spice, paprika, dried onion, sugar, natural flavor, modified corn starch, soybean oil, malic acid, and less than 2% silicon dioxide), water, vegetable protein product (isolated soy protein, magnesium oxide, zinc oxide, niacinamide, ferrous sulfate, Vitamin B12, copper gluconate, Vitamin A Palmitate, calcium pantothenate, pyridoxine hydrochloride, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin), sodium phosphate, salt, flavor (caramelized sugar and maltodextrin)</p><p><strong>Pinto Beans</strong>:</p><p>Prepared pinto beans, water, salt, calcium chloride, and calcium disodium EDTA</p><p><strong>Cheese Sauce:</strong></p><p>Water, cultured pasteurized milk and skim milk, food starch-modified, contains less than 2% of potassium phosphate, sodium phosphate, salt, sodium citrate, pasteurized cream, tricalcium phosphate, whey, buttermilk, maltodextrin, annatto and oleoresin paprika (color), natural flavors, autolyzed yeast extract, lactic acid, vegetable mono and diglycerides, spice, enzymes</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Tortilla Chips</strong>:</p><p>Whole White Corn, Vegetable Oil (Corn, Soybean, Canola, and/or Sunflower Oil), and Salt</p><p><em>Chicken Nuggets</em></p><p>Chicken, water, vegetable protein product (isolated soy protein, magnesium oxide, zinc oxide, niacinamide, ferrous sulfate, vitamin B12, copper gluconate, vitamin A palmitate, calcium pantothenate, pyridoxine hydrochloride, thiamine mononitrate, and riboflavin), seasoning (salt, onion powder, modified corn starch, and natural flavor), sodium phosphates. BREADED WITH: Whole wheat flour, water, enriched wheat flour (enriched with niacin, ferrous sulfate, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), salt, contains 2% or less of the following: modified corn starch, spices, dextrose, garlic powder, extractives of paprika and annatto, spice extractives. Breading set in vegetable oil</p><p><em>Cheeseburger</em></p><p><strong>Burger patty</strong>:</p><p>Ground Beef (Not More Than 30% Fat), Water, Textured Vegetable Protein Product [Soy Protein Concentrate, Caramel Color, Zinc Oxide, Niacinamide, Ferrous Sulfate, Copper Gluconate, Vitamin A Palmitate, Calcium Pantothenate, Thiamine Mononitrate (B1), Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (B6), Riboflavin (B2), Cyanocobalamin (B12)], Salt, Sodium Phosphates, Caramel Color</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong>American cheese</strong>:</p><p>Cultured pasteurized milk and skim milk, cream, sodium citrate, salt, contains less than 2% of milkfat, sorbic acid (preservative), lactic acid, beta-carotene and apo-carotenal (color), enzymes, soy lecithin and soybean oil blend</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Cheeseburger bun:</strong></p><p>Water, Whole Wheat Flour, Enriched Wheat Flour (Wheat Flour, Malted Barley Flour, Niacin, Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Sugar, Wheat Gluten, Yeast, Soybean Oil, Contains 2% or less of the following: Salt, Dough Conditioners (Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Monoglycerides, Ascorbic Acid, Calcium Peroxide, Azodicarbonamide), Potassium Sorbate and Calcium Propionate (Preservatives), Yeast Nutrients (Monocalcium Phosphate, Calcium Sulfate, Ammonium Sulfate)</p><p><em>Penne with Marinara Meat Sauce</em></p><p><strong>Penne</strong>:</p><p>Whole grain durum wheat flour, semolina (wheat), durum wheat flour, oat fiber, niacin, iron (ferrous sulfate), thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Ground beef crumbles</strong>:</p><p>Beef, Water, Textured Vegetable Protein [Soy Protein Concentrate, Caramel Color], Textured Vegetable Protein [Soy Flour, Caramel Color], Soy Protein Concentrate, Salt, Pepper, Sodium Phosphates</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Marinara sauce</strong>:</p><p>Tomato puree (water, tomato paste), diced tomatoes, fresh onions, less than 2% of: olive oil, salt, brown sugar, potassium chloride, citric acid, natural flavor, calcium chloride, garlic powder, spices, oregano</p><p>April 8, 2014, UPDATE: Last week, a Chicago Public Schools spokesman told WBEZ that the district simply didn&#39;t &quot;know the ingredients&quot; of the processed chicken products that it serves Chicago children. Yesterday, that same spokesman still would not share the information, saying that the district is &quot;still in the process of completing this request.&quot; &nbsp;Today Aramark headquarters says that it gave the information to CPS &quot;last week&quot; but it could not share the ingredient information with WBEZ because &quot;the District would need to release it to the media, not us.&quot;</p><p>April 10, 2014, UPDATE: Thursday WBEZ heard from Illinois&#39; Assistant Attorney General for Public Access Tim O&#39;Brien. He&#39;s been assigned to review the legality of CPS&#39;s response to WBEZ&#39;s Freedom of Information Act request for school food data. &nbsp;</p><p>Wednesday WBEZ was contacted by a company that creates online<a href="http://spps.nutrislice.com/menu/battle-creek-environmental-elementary/lunch/"> school menus for the St Paul </a>school district. In these schools, parents and reporters don&#39;t need to file FOIA&#39;s to find out what&#39;s in the food, nor do they need to enlist the help of the Attorney General&#39;s office. They simply put their cursor on the item and the ingredients and nutritional information emerge in a pop-up window.</p><p>April 11, 2014 UPDATE: CPS finally produces the ingredient lists for the Top 5 entrees. Each chicken product contains dozens of ingredients.&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>---------------</p><p><em>(Full disclosure: One of Monica Eng&rsquo;s eight 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>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the Chewing The Fat podcast. Follow her at <a href="https://www.google.com/url?q=https%3A%2F%2Ftwitter.com%2Fmonicaeng&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNGoYzy7NkmnMSoIdG75anzNVCJ90A">@monicaeng or</a> write to her at meng@wbez.org</em></p></p> Thu, 03 Apr 2014 13:59:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/cps-reveals-only-ingredients-its-chicken-nuggets-arechicken-nuggets-109963 Political turmoil in Italy and fresh cafeteria food http://www.wbez.org/programs/worldview/2013-10-01/political-turmoil-italy-and-fresh-cafeteria-food-108813 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/US embassy tehran fixed.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><span style="color: rgb(102, 102, 102); font-family: 'Museo Sans', 'Helvetica Neue', sans-serif; font-size: 15px; line-height: 24px; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255);">The U.S. government has shutdown but Italy might also be on the verge of collapse. Iranian American Ahmad Sadri joins us to discuss where U.S.-Iranian relations are headed.</span></p><div class="storify"><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="no" height="750" src="//storify.com/WBEZ/worldview-political-turmoil-in-italy-and-making-ca/embed?header=false" width="100%"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/worldview-political-turmoil-in-italy-and-making-ca.js?header=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/worldview-political-turmoil-in-italy-and-making-ca" target="_blank">View the story "Worldview: Political turmoil in Italy and fresh cafeteria food" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Tue, 01 Oct 2013 13:19:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/worldview/2013-10-01/political-turmoil-italy-and-fresh-cafeteria-food-108813 EcoMyths: Is fresh cafeteria food an oxymoron? http://www.wbez.org/series/ecomyths/ecomyths-fresh-cafeteria-food-oxymoron-108814 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/EcoMyths-School Lunch.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><strong><u>3 Reasons of Hope for Healthy School Lunches</u></strong></p><p>Reheated frozen chicken nuggets, mushy green beans, and jello have long been staples in many school cafeterias. But the times they are a changin&rsquo;. Efforts are being made across the United States to bring fresh, local foods to kids at school. Today, on <em>Worldview&rsquo;s </em>monthly <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/ecomyths"><em>EcoMyths</em></a> segment, Jerome McDonnell and I talked with Liz Soper of <a href="https://www.nwf.org/Eco-Schools-USA.aspx">Eco-Schools USA</a> to get the fresh facts.</p><p>Many factors have come together to create this new trend toward providing fresh foods to schools. According to Liz Soper, these include Michelle Obama&rsquo;s campaign to get kids moving and eat healthy. In addition, the growing awareness of large food deserts in many urban areas has increased the need for schools to provide the best possible nutrition for children during the school day. In food deserts, their parents may not have access to buy fresh food in their neighborhoods, so school may be where kids get their healthiest meal of the day.</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F113395618" width="100%"></iframe><strong><u>3 Reasons School Lunch is Going Healthy:</u></strong></p><p>1) Local, organic, fresh food is becoming a national priority.</p><p>2) School districts around the country are growing fresh foods to provide to their school cafeterias.</p><p>3) Kids perform better in school when they eat fresh food.</p><p>Liz reminded us that local, fresh food is coming to the forefront not just in schools, but in restaurants, communities, and in the culture in general. Community gardens are popping up all over the country. In addition, people are buying memberships in CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture), which are local farms that deliver weekly crates of fresh, locally farmed produce to their members. This is happening due to increased interest in providing healthy foods for our families and ourselves. Plus, people prefer the taste of freshly-picked produce vs. that which was picked before it was ripe and shipped across the country.</p><p>This exciting development in schools can be seen in many of the largest public school districts across the country. Chicago, Los Angeles, Denver, and Burlington (Vermont) all have implemented programs in which the school district grows produce and delivers it to its own cafeterias. Some of these school gardens are right on school grounds, so the students have an opportunity to plant, nurture, and harvest produce themselves. Liz told us that kids are much more likely to eat a fresh cucumber or bean if they have grown it themselves &ndash; and they like it! As she says, most kids are used to eating beans out of a can, so there is a transition period as their taste buds move towards preferring fresh and natural.</p><p>Eco-Schools USA, Liz explains, works with schools to develop green teams that do a food assessment and create a plan of action they can implement. They encourage schools to take small steps and help gradually kids transform the way they eat. The Eco-Schools programs help the kids make the direct connections between fresh foods and their communities.</p><p>Liz also suggests that school performance is enhanced when kids eat healthy too. Studies show children have more energy and are more alert when they eat fresh, whole foods rather than sugary or processed foods. Not only does eating fresh foods help fight obesity, but studies show that a healthy diet may improve students&rsquo; math scores.</p><p>Overall, it seems movement towards healthy food in schools is good for communities, great for kids&rsquo; health and energy levels, as well as helping school performance. That seems like a recipe worth following!</p><p>To learn more about this myth, listen to the podcast of today&rsquo;s show or go to EcoMyths Alliance website to <a href="http://www.ecomythsalliance.org/2013/09/fresh-school-lunch-is-an-oxymoron/.">read further about why there is hope for healthy school lunches</a>.</p></p> Tue, 01 Oct 2013 09:36:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/ecomyths/ecomyths-fresh-cafeteria-food-oxymoron-108814