For those of you interested anything food related in Chicago, chances are you’ve read an article by Chicago Tribune reporter, Monica Eng. Writing stories on food in Chicago for the better part of 20 years now, she has become a well-known and trusted source in the journalism community. In her travels covering food news in Chicago, Monica has written many in-depth stories on food policy, and in recent years, the food policies of the Chicago Public School (CPS) system. Since we here at the Organic School Project have worked closely with a number of CPS schools and administrators to work toward serving better foods to kids, we were excited to sit and speak with Monica about her experience covering stories like these, and how she’s seen the efforts to improve school food progress over the years.
Organic School Project (OSP): How did you get started reporting stories like these? and making relationships with people in the food business in the interest of serving better food to kids?
Monica Eng (ME): In terms of looking at school food policy and efforts to improve it, it started with a piece I wrote on Greg Christian for the Chicago Tribune magazine, which is no longer in existence. I was asked to go interview a chef that was trying to make school food better. Then I did a news story right around the same time that looked like he was going to leave the program at Alcott because CPS was not allowing him to expand the feeding portion of the program to their schools, I think that was in 2007.
OSP: Did you start writing these revealing food stories to follow a trend in the media, or was it something that you found yourself to be passionate about, and pursued it?
ME: It was an assignment. I really had not looked at this issue at all. I was a feature writer, basically writing about restaurants, recipes, and restaurant trends, leisurely topics. But the editors of the magazine asked me to interview Mr. Christian.
OSP: Since you’ve been following the movement here in Chicago as a reporter for quite a few years now, do you see any changes? improvements? lessons learned? in the way that organizations (like OSP) go about making changes to the food that we’re feeding our children in school?
ME: There is certainly much more attention nationally and locally, that sort of has to do with the First Lady’s Let’s Move campaign. Some of it has to do with the reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act, which has profited a lot of the campaigns out there. And Jamie Oliver didn’t hurt either, with his TV show. So, I think that there has definitely been an increase in coverage of it and I think OSP was a real pioneer that predated a lot of these other efforts.
We would like to thank Monica Eng for taking the time to speak with us here at OSP, and are glad to be in such great media company as we continue to work toward serving better food to our nation’s kids!
Check out some of her articles featuring the betterment of school food: