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Chicago Public Schools to Overhaul Menus

By Megan Tempest in Food on Mar 25, 2010 2:40PM

We know school nutrition is desperate for drastic reform, yet we're still surprised to learn that Chicago Public Schools runs a daily nacho service. Consider this and the fact that, for many CPS students, the lunch they eat in school is the best meal they receive all day. Tuesday the Chicago Tribune reported CPS’ current plan to overhaul their school menus.

The health-promoting plans include reducing nacho service to once a week in high school and once a month in elementary school; reducing the availability of sugary packaged sweets to once a week; and getting rid of doughnuts and Pop Tarts altogether. Most breakfast cereals will contain 5 grams of less of sugar, with the exception of cereal like Raisin Bran or Mini-Wheats that provide at least 3 grams of fiber. These changes follow a handful of healthy accomplishments already achieved by CPS. To improve the healthfulness of their school meals, and fight childhood obesity, CPS Nutrition Support Service previously implemented the following:

  • The elimination of whole and 2% Milk
  • Menus planned with zero trans fats
  • Increased consumption of fresh fruit through special presentation
  • The elimination of fryers in all schools in the District
  • Increased frequency of fresh vegetables on the menus

Check out the list of CPS approved snack vending foods; it’s heavy on healthier snacks like baked chips and yogurt, and virtually free of concentrated sugary sweets.

As reported by the Tribune, the new CPS nutritional standards are tailored to meet the recommendations announced by the Institute of Medicine (in collaboration with USDA) in October of 2009. The IOM recommendations included:

  • School lunches should have a maximum calorie level (current regulations only set a minimum)
  • Limits should be placed on sodium content (currently there are none)
  • Students should be required to select either a fruit or vegetable for their lunch to be reimbursable (currently students must take three of the five foods offered, and most choose the milk, meat and bread)
  • Over the course of a week, schools should serve ½ cup each of dark green vegetables, orange vegetables and legumes
  • Half of the grains served each week should be whole grains
  • School should offer only fat free and low-fat milk
  • Labeling on any packaged food product should indicate 0 grams of trans fat