Chicago Public Schools to Roll Out New Student-Informed Menu Items

Chicago Public Schools to Roll Out New Student-Informed Menu Items

CHICAGO - Smoothies, baked potatoes with chili and cheese, and veggie
pasta salad are among some of the new menu items that Chicago Public Schools (CPS) will roll out in school cafeterias this school year, following summer taste testing sessions with students, educators and community members. While not as formal as a TV cooking competition, the sample testing aimed to help improve the daily fare on food trays across the District.

The CPS’ Nutrition Support Services has engaged students in the past as the District has sought to improve menu items. This was the first time that the District arranged summer tasting sessions, enlisting 2,100 students – from 41 schools across the city – as the District’s two vendors, Aramark
and Open Kitchens, both showcased new dishes for feedback and fine tuning.

Participants provided feedback via paper surveys, using emojis and space to enter comments about the taste and flavor profiles. The District’s vendors then went back to the kitchen to tweak recipes and are rolling out many of the new items, including some that were tested this summer,
throughout September.

Students and others tested salads, smoothies and standards like pizza,
breakfast tacos and more. The feedback has helped vendors launch some new dishes this year, including Asian Noodle Salad, Chicago Ham Frittata, pierogies, BBQ tofu, chilaquiles as well as updates to some of the
traditional fare.

A cheeseburger pizza ranked as the tastiest item but students encouraged the District to not stop there and called for additional versions featuring vegetables and various flavors which are now under consideration.

School menu items are held to many nutritional standards. For example, the pizza crust is whole grain-rich and is lower in sodium and fat than what students may find outside of school. Students always will have access to fruits, vegetables, and milk at lunch.

CPS offers free nutritionally-balanced breakfast, lunch, and snacks to all students. The District launched “Meatless Monday” during the 2018-19 school year and expanded its offerings last year with Plant-Forward
Thursdays, featuring two vegetarian dishes on that day each week. This year, the District is offering a daily vegetarian meal option. The District has also provided Halal meal programs at schools since 2021, while Kosher meals have been offered since 2018.

Nutrition Support Services will continue to arrange regular meetings with students interested in improving or expanding menu items this school year and beyond.

For more information, visit www.cps. edu/services-and-supports/school-mealsand-nutrition/.

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