Illinois school districts proactive in making healthful menu changes

Increasing fruits, vegetables and whole grains on the docket for schools.

Ten-year-old Denise Bush said the chicken patty sandwich is “mostly my favorite” school lunch.

“My mom cooks it, and it’s really good,” she said.

Luckily for the pigtailed fourth-grader, that was one of the items on the menu Thursday in the Cool Caf at Lake in the Hills Elementary School, 519 Willow St. in Carpentersville, Ill.

And while a chicken patty sandwich might sound unhealthy, the chicken is oven-baked, not deep-fried, with whole wheat breading, according to Scott Rodgers, general manager of Aramark, School District 300’s food service provider. It’s also served on a whole wheat bun, not white bread, he added.

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Ideas and Innovation
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On every other Thursday of our four-week cycle menu, we allow K-8 students to pick the entree choices. The media center specialist for each of the participating schools sets up the list of entree items on a computer for voting, and the winning entrees are given to cafeteria managers two weeks before the upcoming month to put into production. Students really like this, as it promotes ownership of the menu.

Ideas and Innovation
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We highlight our North Carolina products on a large chalkboard in our dining halls, and also list any produce we bring in from our own agroecology farm. It helps tell our story—positive and local.

Ideas and Innovation
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We have raised garden beds that residents can reserve and use to grow their own plants. Whenever a resident brings me fresh produce from their own garden, I try and incorporate it into a dish. If I do end up using it, I will display the resident’s name and what the produce was next to the dish on the menu.

Ideas and Innovation
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Curriculum for the mobile teaching kitchen centers around a single kid-friendly recipe, using ingredients that can provide talking points for nutrition, sustainability and food origins. “The recipe is the lesson,” Saidel says. “Every ingredient is an opportunity to talk.”

Earlier this year, Saidel, Perkins and Harvey did a student demo featuring roasted chicken and white bean tacos with greens and citrus salsa. “We can say, ‘Why are we using chicken instead of beef? Why are there some beans in here?’ You can talk about plant proteins and the sustainability and health message around...

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