Food rated ‘icky’ or ‘gross’ by Chicago Public Schools students slated for an upgrade

Students are testing new menu items this summer. So far, a big thumbs down for the pasta salad but the breakfast tacos are (mostly) a winner.

WBEZ
Chicago Public Schools, long criticized for its lunch options, is taste testing new menu options with students this summer. Nereida Moreno / WBEZ
WBEZ
Chicago Public Schools, long criticized for its lunch options, is taste testing new menu options with students this summer. Nereida Moreno / WBEZ

Food rated ‘icky’ or ‘gross’ by Chicago Public Schools students slated for an upgrade

Students are testing new menu items this summer. So far, a big thumbs down for the pasta salad but the breakfast tacos are (mostly) a winner.

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The lunches served at Chicago Public Schools have long been a sore spot for Chicago students. CPS CEO Pedro Martinez says it’s the top complaint he hears across all grade levels — including from his own children, who are 8 and 11 years old and attend CPS schools.

“Kids are very honest,” he said. “When I asked them about the food it was a non-ending conversation.”

In an effort to do better, Martinez joined students and parents at Whittier Elementary School in Pilsen on Wednesday to test new menu items that may be served this school year. It’s one of 40 tasting sessions this summer to get feedback before classes start on Aug. 22. These options are for the approximately 155 school sites with no kitchen or only a warming kitchen.

Kids got to try breakfast tacos and veggie pasta salad and were asked to complete a survey. Other tastings will feature new items like fruit smoothies, chilaquiles and BBQ, CPS said.

Kalani Brito, 12, said she’s looking forward to having new lunch options.

“Most of the food that they used to have usually looked kind of icky or gross,” Brito said. “Some of the bread would sometimes look gray or discolored.”

Unfiltered and unedited, here’s what the Whittier students thought about CPS’ sample menu options.

Veggie pasta salad

“It was really really bad. I don’t like it.” — Guadalupe Angulo, 11

“It was dry.” — Kayla Fabian, 12

“Hated it. I didn’t like the flavor at all. It was caca.” — Aiden Montero, 8

WBEZ
Aiden Montero, 8, did not like the veggie pasta salad. ‘I hated it,’ he said. Nereida Moreno / WBEZ

Breakfast tacos

“I really liked it. It had really good texture. And I liked the hot sauce with it. And I liked the ingredients.” — Aiden Montero, 8

“I loved it because it had eggs with tortilla.” — Santiago Lopez, 8

“I really don’t like the tortilla. The eggs taste OK but the tortilla always has a sour aftertaste.” — Kalani Brito, 12

Whittier Principal Yadira Guzman said she loves that her students did not hold back.

“It’s really great that it’s kids that are getting the opportunity to give their voice and their thoughts on what they’re eating because ultimately they’re the ones that are eating these meals every day,” Guzman said.

Nereida Moreno covers education for WBEZ. Follow her on Twitter @nereidamorenos and @WBEZeducation.