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Ground-breaking Partnership Brings Celebrity Recipe to Chicago Student Lunches

Savory chicken, sweet and spicy baked beans, and glazed carrots were part of the new recipe served to students in Chicago schools.

Savory chicken, sweet and spicy baked beans, and glazed carrots were part of the new recipe served to students in Chicago schools.

One of USDA’s most important missions is providing healthy meals to school lunch programs across the country.  In a unique partnership, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) and Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) agencies teamed up with Rachael Ray’s Yum-o! non-profit organization, the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) system and Chartwells-Thompson Hospitality to create and serve a new healthy, tasty and exciting school lunch recipe.

To do this, Bob Bloomer of Chartwells-Thompson, the provider of meals in most of Chicago’s schools, worked with the Agricultural Marketing Service to acquire fresh, unprocessed chicken. After issuing a solicitation and competitive bids from domestic suppliers, the Agricultural Marketing Service awarded the first contract for two truckloads—that’s 80,000 pounds —of raw chicken leg quarters for shipment to Chicago’s schools.

Next the Midwest Food and Nutrition Staff worked with Rachael Ray ’s Yum-o! non-profit to create a healthy, tasty meal. “I had so much fun creating this recipe with Chicago Public Schools,” said Ray. “I tried to create a recipe that would capture the cultural diversity of Chicago and most importantly, that the kids would love to eat.”

The result: Windy City Chicken — a savory meal of chicken, sweet and spicy baked beans, brown rice and orange-glazed carrots. Prepared by food service staff, the new menu itesm were served to thrilled Second City students in more than 450 schools as part of National School Lunch Week on October 13th.  NBC-Chicago, which covered the event, captured the reaction of a number of children who raved about the meal. “It tastes like heaven,” said one student.

Students enjoyed the new lunch menu items made possible by a unique collaboration USDA agencies, a celebrity chef, and the Chicago Schools system.
Students enjoyed the new lunch menu items made possible by a unique collaboration USDA agencies, a celebrity chef, and the Chicago Schools system.

October was National Farm to School Month, which promotes locally-sourced foods in school meal programs, so the menu also featured locally grown food. Chicago Public Schools, through its primary food provider, Chartwells-Thompson, has the largest farm to school program in the Midwest, with more than $2.5 million in fruits and vegetables purchased from regional growers and producers. The carrots used for the special menu are one of the items in CPS’s well-known frozen local program. They were grown within 250 miles of the city, picked at their peak ripeness and flash frozen to preserve their fresh-tasting flavor—and nutrients.

The special menu entrée will be served again in the future. In fact, the Agricultural Marketing Service has already awarded additional contracts for more of the chicken.

2 Responses to “Ground-breaking Partnership Brings Celebrity Recipe to Chicago Student Lunches”

  1. Josn says:

    It looks delicious, but I am wondering if that isn’t too much for kids to eat? little kids like the ones shown in the picture usually can hardly get through a chicken leg, let alone a whole quarter..especially with the other stuff..hoping there wasn’t a lot of wasted food.

  2. Wallace says:

    I am sure the food was prepared well and with good thought, but as in the picture seems the children skipped out on the spicy beans and carrots. In truth, in an ideal world children eat their veggies. In reality, given a choice, they would pass on the carrots and the beans, which I totally understand. Children are a product of home and if they don’t eat it at home then “why start now” is a constant for them. Now if you were to for instance make fried rice with peas, carrots, onions it would be well recieved. If you were to debone the chicken, then it wouldn’t go to waste. A child can only knaw away at a chicken thigh for so long before they get tired of it. Food comes with age and as they mature so does their food preference. So food should be catered to age. Now don’t get me wrong I AM NOT talking mac & cheese, but what I am saying is that food should be more systematic. If you have veggies put it in the rice, hide it in chicken. And if they have a choice they will pass on the veggies. Do me a favor and record how much of the food is not eaten and then use that data to figure out what sort of food to serve. You can spend a lot of money to meet the healthy food standard, but you need to first consider the potential for food being eaten and utilized. What will be eaten, a cause and effect strategy. If the food was for a lesson of what should go on a plate, then great job. Just don’t forget the bottom line, the life lesson is to ponder what is needed, consider what will be wasted, and weave a reality that is acurate, green & energy conservative, creative, pollitically correct, and above all meaningful to the children. Because they are the consumer in need, not the general public, parents, media, or political affiliation, the mouths that were ment to be fed. And carrots, rice, chicken, and beans is definitly not a cultural norm or reflection of chicago I am afraid. -Hate to hate on the food, but the truth is the truth no matter how anyone feels.

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