Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Chicago Chefs Help Bring to Light the Obstacles to Introducing Healthy Foods to CPS Lunchrooms

With the passage of the Healthy, Hunger-free Kids Act earlier this month, many of those advocating for the introduction of healthy, fresh foods to kids in the lunchroom have been re-energized and re-inspired to continue their work to make changes in the lunchroom. But it’s not just isolated pockets of society, or a handful of organizations finding new inspiration with the passage of this bill, as shows. In a recent article by Chicago Tribune writer Monica Eng, the process of getting healthy, freshly prepared foods onto CPS lunch tables for one of these groups, the Chicago chef based Pilot Light program, is described.

Visiting a Chicagoland school lunchroom this past fall, the Pilot Light program chefs were determined to use their skills to deliver tasty, healthful meals to replace the processed, pre-made foods that they saw the children were being offered. Working together to plan a day of demonstrations and a Thanksgiving-themed lunch for the children of Disney II Elementary Magnet School, the program seemed to be off to a great start.

However, amidst the excitement among school faculty and parents, the Chicago Public School System administration put the day’s events on hold to discuss exactly what these chefs were setting out to do. In the end, CPS allowed the event to take place as a “tasting” rather than a full-fledged “lunch,” offering the chefs’ culinary offerings alongside regular CPS lunch fare. And while Pilot Light chefs offer a wealth of ideas and vehicles in which to incorporate recipes for fresh and healthy lunch options for kids, CPS administrators have pointed out the contractual and budgetary constraints, but are open to ideas and input from Pilot Light.

While this effort was a valiant one by the chefs of the Pilot Light program, the reaction excitement and apprehension that they received from parents and faculty, and administration, respectively, was not a first. The obstacles that the program faced in making their non-CPS contracted food available to children is what happens in districts all over the country, and is something that we at the Organic School Project are very familiar with. As Monica Eng reported in an article this fall, when Chef Greg Christian requested that the food grown by children in their Alcott elementary school garden be served in the schools cafeteria for lunch, district administrators denied the request on the grounds that the food wasn’t safe, as the food was not approved or supplied by the CPS contracted foodservice provider, Chartwells.

We at the Organic School Project think that this most recent article is great at illustrating the process, which can be difficult at times, in getting healthy foods into schools. While the passion and creativity to bring this food into the lunchroom is far from lacking, the administrative and contractual elements required to make these changes is a bit harder to work around, as this article illustrates well.

Stay tuned for our exclusive interview with the writer of this article, Chicago Tribune reporter Monica Eng.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Volunteer Opportunity

OSP is working on the final push to complete our publication, Grow Teach Feed: A Complete Curriculum to Inspire Healthy Lifestyles in Schools and we need your help!

OSP is looking for volunteers as we seek to provide a comprehensive resource for foodservice providers, educational policymakers, kitchen staff, teachers and parents, to ensure the needs of our children are being met, both in the lunchroom and the classroom.

The Grow Teach Feed Collection, a culmination of five years of work by organic visionary and author Greg Christian, seeks to provide school and kitchen staff, as well as teachers and parents, with the resources to Grow, Teach and Feed every child.

The first volume, Grow, teaches school staff how to connect kids to the earth and their food source by converting a portion of their school ground into an organic garden that serves as an interactive classroom. The second volume, Feed, is a comprehensive training manual for schools to develop a healthful and natural–based, sustainable school foodservice that provides kids with healthier meals. Finally, Teach, the third volume, supplements these meals with lessons on nutrition and environmental stewardship to help kids make healthier choices. Read a more comprehensive description here.

Give back during this generous season and volunteer your time, gaining valuable experience while assisting a socially conscious organization help improve the quality of food served to our nation’s school children.

Throughout the month of January, OSP staff will be taking the great, kid proven recipes created by Chef Jerry, and verifying their compliance with dietary guidelines via menu planning software used by many school cafeterias. This opportunity asks for help with data entry and training in menu planning software.

Come work closely with our Grow Teach Feed Collection team and learn how school cafeterias ensure nutritional standards are being met while keeping the price affordable!

For more information, or to volunteer, send us an email at

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Organic School Project Partners with Door To Door Organics

Great news! Organic School Project is partnering with Door to Door Organics for a holiday fundraiser. For every boxof

organic produce that is purchased through this program from December 15th through December 31st, Door to Door Organics will donate 50% of new customer produce box sales to Organic School Project. Door to Door Organics delivers a wide variety of organic produce and a selection of great local grocery items to your door. You choose what box size best suits your needs and then every week Door to Door Organics emails you a seasonally appropriate menu that you customize with up to five substitutions.
Order now and ensure your own access to healthy food, while also helping to reform school lunch and improve the way our children eat. Sign up with special discount code, "organicsc

hool2010" and you'll have organic goodies showing up on your doorstep in no time. And best of all? There's no commitment, you can cancel or put your subscription on hold at anytime.

Note: New customers only. Subject to delivery areas listed here. 50% donation is good off the customer's first organic produce box ord
er only.


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Youth Farm and Market Project

Courtesy of Youth Farm

A non-profit organization in Minnesota is working with youth from ages 9 to 18 to connect them to their food.

“It’s about a new way of bringing quality healthy food to urban neighborhoods and exploring culinary traditions from around the world – cooking and distributing over 11,000 pounds of fresh, local produce. It’s about community involvement – engaging over 400 volunteers in over 4,000 hours of service to their community,” says the website.

They focus on three main areas: urban agriculture, project LEAD, and cultural nutrition.

Urban Agriculture

Work with kids on 2+ acres of land spreading across plots on vacant lots, public housing high-rises, private lands, and churches to grow vegetables and sell the crops at different neighborhood markets.

Project LEAD

Offer paid internships and summer employment for 25 teenagers ages 14-18 where they can develop power and public leadership skills in their neighborhoods. They then can apply the skills through their work on producing and distributing local produce. They also supervise, mentor and create strong relationships with younger kids.

Cultural Nutrition

Using food as a means to educate the kids about different cultures, Youth Farm works with young leaders to learn how to grow, cook, and distribute traditional foods found in South and Central America, Asia, Africa, Europe and other countries.

The video shows several perspectives from kids and leaders where they talk about the benefits. Great program to keep kids engaged and encourage growth outside of school.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Giving Back Locally, Globally

TED recently posted a video of a man named John Hardy and how he came about creating a school that employed sustainable practices and educated students so they would become sustainable leaders.

In Bali, the Green School’s classrooms have no walls so air can pass through and natural light can come in, teachers write on bamboo blackboards and the desk are not square.

John said they aren’t happy about being on the grid. Then an alternative energy company from Paris wanted to help take them off the grid with solar power. They built a vortex, the second one to be built in the world. And when the turbine drops in, the vortex will produce 8000 watts of energy.

That was only part of the first half of the video. The second half addresses food, what the kids learn in school, scholarship funds, volunteers, and more.

Check it out because it really is interesting.

And check out the Green School here.

Friday, December 3, 2010


Photo source: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

Today, after a bleak outlook last night, Congress passed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act! Through it, nutritious meals will be made more accessible to students in public schools. And for the first time, it will include a Farm to School Program that will help communities establish farm to school networks, create school gardens, and get more local food into the cafeterias with the $40 million in mandatory funding.

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Act will provide $4.5 billion in new funding allocated over the next 10 years to improve access to healthier meals, even when kids are out of school; so, hunger gaps during the weekends, after school, and even during summer break will be closed.

The act will expand eligibility for school lunch programs, establish nutritional standards for all school meals, and encourage schools to use locally grown food. The Agriculture Department will write those new standards, which will support eliminating fat injected items in cafeterias now to foods with less grease, sugar, and empty calories. Changes like switching to whole wheat and choosing leaner meats will help improve classic cafeteria options. Another improvement will be that vending machines and school stores will stock less candy and high-sugar beverages.

The bill will also make it easier for lower-income children to have these better meals because the number of school lunches that are subsidized by the government will increase.

This is amazing!! Not only will kids get better food, but they will also be supporting local farmers, meaning they will be helping the earth by being more sustainable.

This is right up the Organic School Project’s alley because we believe in connecting kids to their food. Needless to say, we’re pretty excited over here… =]

Read all the specifics here.