The Big Idea: Comprehensive School Dining

The Academy for Global Citizenship's goal is to focus on positive health and nutrition, environmental sustainability and international mindedness.

Sarah Elizabeth Ippel
Founder and Executive Director
Academy for Global Citizenship, Chicago

The Academy for Global Citizenship opened in 2008. Our whole mission is to focus on positive health and nutrition, environmental sustainability and international mindedness. As part of our mission focused on positive health and nutrition, we integrate that concept into our overall philosophy, culture and programs. Given our commitment to environmental sustainability, our organic food pilot program has been part of our school’s structure and approach since our first day of school.

We are partnering with Chartwells Thompson Hospitality, which is Chicago Public Schools’ largest foodservice provider, to implement a pilot program in our school where we serve 100% organic and scratch-made food. The program is predominately plant-based. We do serve chicken, turkey and fish. We have Meatless Mondays and source as much locally as possible. Our foods do not contain high fructose corn syrup, trans fats, artificial preservatives, colors or sweeteners. We also developed intentional partnerships and relationships with our local farmers. We incorporate a wide variety of whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables. We are meeting the HealthierUS School Challenge Gold with Distinction standards.

We have an 83% low-income, 90% minority population. Given the challenges in terms of access to positive food in our community, we have created a comprehensive wellness policy to support an aligned food culture. What that means is we have a policy pertaining to foods that are [allowed to be brought into] our building. If a student is interested in bringing food to school a meeting must be held with our principal to ensure that families understand the guidelines, philosophy and policy. Since breakfast and lunch are such an integral part of our school day we really encourage students to participate at school.

We have a comprehensive structure to support positive nutrition. For example, we incorporate our organic schoolyard garden and have a really engaged chef who interacts with our students about food. Our teachers model positive nutrition practices. We have parent education workshops, family gardening workshops and composting classes. We have a CSA program where we send organic produce home with our families. We incorporate the school garden produce into learning lessons and homework assignments, so students are taking home asparagus and learning to prepare that with their families as part of their assignments. We have 13,000 square feet of asphalt outside that we’ve turned into a center for urban sustainability. We have schoolyard chickens that lay eggs, solar energy wind turbines, rain barrels and a native species garden. As a result of this comprehensive approach we have the highest participation rates in the city of Chicago. It’s around 99% for both breakfast and lunch.

We know that because of the financial constraints the program cannot be taken wholesale and replicated. Our food costs are about 50 cents more per child. We are seeing that [figure] decline as we scale up. But we are taking components and recipes and extending those into the system to impact all of the students in the Chartwells schools in Chicago.

My advice for others is to take a comprehensive approach. We don’t believe that simply changing the food that’s being served in the cafeteria is the answer to improving student health. We really need to be looking at a whole holistic answer and how a school’s teaching and learning philosophy and environment is impacting our students’ choices and overall health.  

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

Noncommercial foodservice operations and other employers would be spared from costly new overtime pay regulations if 21 states succeed in the legal challenge they jointly filed yesterday.

The lawsuit asks the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas to set aside the rules, which are scheduled to take effect on Dec. 1.

If the court rejects the request, restaurants and other businesses will be required after that date to pay overtime to any salaried employee who works more than 40 hours in a week and earns less than $47,476 on an annual basis.

The...

Industry News & Opinion

The new unpaid-balance policy at Canon-McMillan School District in Pittsburgh is making waves after a former cafeteria worker sounded off about the practice on social media.

Stacy Koltiska said she quit her job with the district after being forced to take hot meals away from students who owed lunch money, CBS News reports .

Under a new policy that was implemented at Canon-McMillan this year, students whose lunch debt exceeds $25 are not allowed to receive a hot lunch. Children in grades K-6 are given a sandwich in its place, and older students receive no lunch. A recent...

Industry News & Opinion

Due to low participation in its lunch program, Talawanda School District in Oxford, Ohio, is raising the price of school meals this year, Patch.com reports .

The cost of school lunches will see a 30-cent increase, half of which is being enacted to cover the district’s budget. The other half is being required by the government to cover the cost of free and reduced-price lunches provided to low-income families. Prior to this year, the district had not raised prices since 2009.

The district’s cafeterias have experienced a decline in student participation since implementing the...

Industry News & Opinion

Six Philadelphia hospitals were honored by the city’s department of public health for healthy food initiatives introduced as part of the local Good Food, Healthy Hospitals program, bizjournals.com reports .

The hospitals each debuted healthy measures to their dining services, such as lowering the cost of water bottles and seltzers, and offering dishes that incorporate local produce. One hospital was also honored for operating its own organic farm.

The facilities that were honored were:

Einstein Medical Center Philadelphia Cancer Treatment Centers of America’s Eastern...

FSD Resources