CPS students call for healthier lunches

Students in a classroom.

March 24, 2010 2:16:08 PM PDT
Chicago Public Schools may make drastic changes to its menus in an effort to combat the child obesity rate.

That could mean an end to doughnuts, Pop Tarts and nachos at lunch. On Wednesday, several high school students attended a Chicago Board of Education meeting to complain about the schools' menus. But officials defended their choices and said students are getting what they want.

All CPS menus are USDA approved, officials said, and they are "always looking at ways to improve nutritional standards, even under tough budgetary constraints."

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin says he supports CPS in its efforts, as well as a bill that would increase funding for school lunch programs.

Some students who eat those lunches say they want immediate change.

"We are given the same choices as sickening pizza, chicken sandwiches and nachos and cheese," said Teresa Onstott, student.

Onstott and her classmates at Social Justice High School are getting a lesson in civic engagement by making a case to the school board for a wider variety of healthier food. They say they are given the same few options to eat every day --and question the nutritional value of those options. For some students school food is their only meal of the day.

"It's what's making the children obese. Stop complaining about the kids are getting fat. Change something," said Asia Snyder, student.

As the students lobbied for better nutrition, lunch wrapped up at North Grand High School. Food service to every school in the district is provided by Chartwells, which has had a contract with Chicago Public Schools for 10-years and is up for renewal this year. The company said they're in the process of making healthy adjustments to their food and students are already offering ideas.

"We could still have the same lunch but on different months we could have it so there are more options like salads, or fruit salads. Something healthy they can provide besides the pizzas and the nachos," said Francheska Bazares, student.

Meanwhile, students' complaints about the quality of school food registered with the school board. Schools Chief Executive Officer Ron Huberman said an announcement will be made in the near future regarding changes to food service that's in place for next year.

"We hear you loud and clear. You don't like the quality of food that you get. we get the message and we are as a system changing how food service will operate in this district," said Chicago Public Schools CEO Ron Huberman.

Huberman would not give any details about those changes.

Chartwells said it submitted the lowest bid and is hoping the food company's contract will be renewed for another 5-year contract.

The school board will vote on that contract during its meeting next month.