CPS changes menu to further exceed USDA requirements

By Stephanie Saviola

After being scrutinized and receiving complaints from students about “greasy” meal options provided to them, Chicago Public Schools announced it will make considerable changes to its breakfast and lunch menus to meet new nutritional standards.

During a press conference on April 7, at Sharon Christa McAuliffe Elementary School, 1841 N. Springfield Ave., Chief Education Officer Barbara Eason-Watkins said a broader variety of healthy options will be provided to Chicago’s school-age children.

According to a statement issued by Chicago Public Schools, Chicago is one of the first major school districts to declare new nutritional standards designed to exceed the U.S. Department of Agriculture Gold Standard of The HealthierUS School Challenge guidelines.

The USDA created the HealthierUS School Challenge to recognize schools that are promoting good nutrition and

physical activity.

“We want to engage students and raise their level of awareness about healthy eating and making healthy choices as part of their daily practice,” Eason-Watkins said during the press conference.

Chicago Public Schools Chief Executive Officer Ron Huberman said the nutritional standards come from an advisory group composed of dieticians, community partners and food service operational experts that have been working on the project since last year.

“Our schools offer a unique environment to nourish and nutritionally educate schoolchildren and impact their dietary habits, hopefully shaping their lifelong approach to healthy eating,” said Chicago Public Schools Logistics Officer Louise Esaian, who led the advisory group.

The revised nutritional standards reflect a program created by the Institute of Medicine, which focuses on menu planning for school programs, according to CPS.

Some of the changes on the breakfast and lunch menus include: an increased number of dark green and orange vegetables offered daily, a reduced amount of starchy vegetables, whole grains served every day at lunch and the elimination of breakfast items that contain ‘dessert or candy-type’ ingredients.

Staff writer for CPS Marlon Edwards said the previous menu did meet and exceed previous USDA standards for nutrition.

“We still wanted to offer our students better and healthier options in the cafeteria,” Edwards said.

Chicago Public Schools is the third-largest school district in the nation and serves 14.2 million breakfasts and 47.6 million lunches annually.

According to CPS, menu changes will not cost the district any additional money and the cost is expected to remain a

neutral subject.

The nutritional standards for Chicago Public Schools will take effect at the start of the new school year.