Durbin: Chicago Public Schools Should be National Model for School Lunch Reform
[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Assistant Senate
Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) today sent a letter to CEO of the
Chicago Public Schools (CPS), Ron Huberman, commending him for his new
commitment to higher nutritional standards in school lunches, which was
addressed in a series of articles in the Chicago Tribune.
“The public schools in the First Lady’s home town need to lead the nation in healthy and nutritious food,” said Durbin. “Chicago Public Schools has made progress, but now we need a dramatic commitment to improving student health. I want to help them make this a reality.”
Earlier today, a bill that would increase funding and strengthen nutritional standards for federal school breakfast and lunch programs was passed out of the Senate Committee on Agriculture. Durbin committed to supporting the CPS effort through this bill which is expected to be considered by the full Senate later this year: “I will work to ensure that these federal programs promote improved nutritional standards, provide resources that help school districts feed children healthy meals, and maintain the commitment to meet the nutritional needs of students from low-income families.”
March 24, 2010
Chief Executive Officer
Chicago Public Schools
125 South Clark Street
Chicago, Illinois, 60603
Dear Mr. Huberman:
Chicago Public Schools (CPS) considers proposals from school
foodservice vendors for the next CPS contract, I urge you to give
consideration to dramatically raising nutritional standards in school
It is my understanding that CPS has solicited bids for the foodservice contract that would begin the 2010/11 academic year. The current standards have not served students well. Particularly in high schools, students are offered food choices that reinforce unhealthy diets and poor nutrition.
Recently, I visited Westinghouse College Preparatory School on the West Side. While I was impressed with the teachers and the state of the art facilities, I was disappointed when I visited the school cafeteria at lunch time and found most students eating French fries, pizza and nachos. The students and parents I spoke with told me that these were typical choices in the cafeteria, and in fact some of them are offered every day.
The students may enjoy these items, but we owe it to them to offer healthier choices that are still appealing. Most schools offer a selection of “balanced choices” meals each week that include healthier items and fresh fruits and vegetables. But those items quickly lose their appeal to young people when less nutritional, more popular options are available in the same cafeteria. It isn’t enough to offer healthy choices. We have to make the healthy choice the easy choice in the cafeteria line.
Over the last few years, CPS has eliminated whole milk from schools and removed deep fat fryers from cafeterias. These are significant first steps.
Similarly, I commend CPS for the higher standards it is asking potential vendors to meet, including a requirement that all menus meet the USDA’s Healthier US Schools Challenge “gold” standard. Today, only two schools in Illinois have been recognized by USDA as meeting this standard. We can and should add CPS to this distinguished list.
I understand that the CPS requirements for a new vendor would eliminate donuts, pastries and pop tarts from the breakfast menu and limit nachos in high school cafeterias to once a week and French fries to twice a week.
These are important improvements. Last summer, a report by Trust for America’s Health and The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation estimated that 34.9% of children in Illinois are obese or overweight—the 10th highest rate in the nation. Limiting foods that are high in harmful fats and sugars is a commonsense way to improve students’ diets, and more must be done.
CPS has taken many steps to raise educational standards and school performance. I urge you to continue to adopt higher standards in the school meals program as well. With your continued commitment, I believe CPS’s meal program could be a model for other large urban school districts.
I am committed to supporting you in this effort. The Senate is considering a bill this year to reauthorize the federal school breakfast and lunch programs. I will work to ensure that these federal programs promote improved nutritional standards, provide resources that help school districts feed children healthy meals, and maintain the commitment to meet the nutritional needs of students from low-income families.
Richard J. Durbin
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