When Chicago heard about First Lady Michelle Obama’s effort to match chefs with schools, the city popped! Inspired by a unique partnership between locally-based Healthy Schools Campaign and Chicago Public Schools, the city saw an impressive number of Second City chefs sign up to participate in the effort.
But at least one chef–Kimberley Stakal—began working with a school before Chefs Move to Schools was even officially launched. Having worked as a culinary consultant with the Academy for Global Citizenship on the city’s south side since January, the food writer and accredited chef was so active in the school she might just as well have packed up her cookware and moved in.
From hands-on nutrition lessons for students and their families, to training the school’s kitchen staff on healthy cooking, Stakal assisted the school and neighborhood in realizing sustained improvement in their health and nutrition. But the local food writer did plenty more (far too many things, in fact, to outline in this blog). She helped develop a new school menu based on seasonal, local, plant-based ingredients and conducted five after-school open houses at which families could sample different menu items and learn how to create healthy snacks such as agave lemonade, cherry salsa and quinoa granola.
In addition, Stakal organized a Taste of the Academy event attended by 200 parents. The engaged parents were introduced to the healthy, all-organic foods their children eat at the school, including whole grains and legumes. And specifically, to commemorate Chefs Move to Schools, Chef Duenas of Cathedral Café recently spoke to third graders about nutrition choices and demonstrated how to make a delicious, nutritious salad.
The result of the collaboration has translated into improved nutrition and awareness for students, parents, and teachers. But the partnership enjoyed still another momentous outcome: in October, the Academy qualified for USDA’s Healthier US School Challenge Gold of Distinction Award.
The award and collective efforts of the Academy prove that with motivated parents, principals, and organizations, impressive feats can be achieved.
Congratulations to the Academy on its Gold of Distinction award and a special thanks to Chicago chefs for moving their community’s schools toward healthier lifestyles.
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