CPS unveils new nutritional standards 

Healthy options put district in line to exceed USDA’s ‘gold standard’


Chicago Public School officials today announced significant new nutritional standards for school breakfasts and lunches that will be served at CPS schools. 


The new nutritional standards, detailed during a press conference at Sharon Christa McAuliffe Elementary School, 1841 N. Springfield, will provide a broader variety of important healthy options to Chicago‘s school-age children, said CPS Chief Education Officer Barbara Eason-Watkins.


With today’s announcement, Chicago becomes one of the first major school districts to declare new nutritional standards that are designed to exceed the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Gold Standard of The HealthierUS School Challenge (HUSSC) Guidelines. The CPS nutritional standards become effective with the start of the new school year.


The new CPS nutritional standards are the result of an advisory group composed of dieticians, food service operational experts and community partners that have been working together since last year, said CPS Chief Executive Officer Ron Huberman. The group, led by CPS Logistics Officer Louise Esaian, researched best nutritional practices across the country and new ways of thinking about school food. 


“We want to engage students and raise their level of awareness about healthy eating and making healthy choices as part of their daily practice,” Eason-Watkins said.   “Reinforcing new nutritional standards into our school breakfast and lunch programs is an important step in creating healthy environments and healthy students,” Eason-Watkins added.  


The new CPS nutritional standards also begin to mirror elements of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program nutritional targets and standards for menu planning. The IOM report was issued in October 2009.


Chicago Public Schools serves approximately 120,000 breakfasts and 280,000 lunches every day. That equates to 14.2 million breakfasts and 47.6 million lunches annually. Some 86 percent of CPS students qualify for free or reduced lunch.


“Our schools offer a unique environment to nourish and nutritionally educate schoolchildren and impact their dietary habits, hopefully shaping their lifelong approach to healthy eating,” said Esaian, head of Nutrition Support Services.   Esaian stressed that the new nutritional guidelines will exceed USDA and HealthierUS Gold Standards.


The new nutritional standards include the following changes from current practice:


  • While vegetables are already offered daily, CPS will now offer a different vegetable everyday, increase dark green and orange and dark vegetables and limit starchy vegetables.


  • Where occasional whole grains are offered, they will now be served every day at lunch and there will be a 25 percent whole grain requirement at breakfast.


  • No breakfast items containing “dessert or candy-type” ingredients or flavors will be offered.


  • Only reduced fat salad dressings and mayonnaise will be offered.


  • A fiber requirement of seven grams on average weekly for breakfast and minimum of three grams averaged daily at lunch will replace the current no-fiber requirement.


  • CPS has set a goal of reducing sodium by 5 percent annually. (Already, no sodium is added during meal preparation.)


Further, there will now be limits on 100 percent juice at breakfast and increased serving of canned or frozen fruit in natural juices or light syrup. There will be a preference given to locally grown and processed fruit and vegetables when economically feasible.


CPS already does not permit trans fats and deep fat frying, prohibitions that will be continued to under the new standards. Treats must meet specific snack guidelines and will be offered only once a week vs. the current practice of three times per week.


The new standards will not cost CPS additional dollars and are expected to be cost neutral.


USDA established the HealthierUS School Challenge as a way to recognize schools that are creating healthy school environments by promoting good nutrition and physical activity. Schools have the opportunity to become certified as Bronze, Silver, Gold, or Gold of Distinction Schools, depending on meeting certain criteria.


CPS is committed to continuing a strong alliance with its wellness focused community partners.  Healthy Schools Campaign will be partnering with CPS to provide resources to schools to help them individually meet the HealthierUS challenge and adopt best practices.

About CPS

Chicago Public Schools serves 417,855 students in 675 schools. It is the nation’s third-largest school district.


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