Chicago boasts some of the best school gardens and greenhouses in the nation. With 40 agricultural operations, schools have a bounty of locally grown squash, eggplant, tomatoes, and other fruits and veggies at their disposal. But here's the big caveat: School cafeterias aren't allowed to serve the produce that students grow.
Under regulations imposed by the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) district and its meals provider, Chartwells-Thompson, cafeterias can't serve student-grown produce unless the fruits and veggies were grown without chemicals. However, the same rules don't apply to commercial vendors that currently provide ingredients for school lunches--they can grow produce any way they want.
Produce grown on school property likely contains far fewer chemicals than fruits and veggies produced by industrial mega-farms. Plus, incorporating local, student-grown crops into school meals will make lunches more nutritious and help kids learn healthy eating habits.
Chicago's produce rules were designed to benefit CPS and Chartwells-Thompson, not Chicago students. Take action now, and tell CPS and Chartwells-Thompson to serve student-grown produce in school cafeterias.
Incorporating student-produced food into school lunches would greatly improve meals' nutritional quality. Also, studies indicate that kids who grow their own vegetables are more likely to do well in school, be more environmentally aware, and develop healthy eating habits. It's a win-win situation.
These rules only benefit CPS and Chartwells-Thompson, not Chicago's students. Please amend your regulations, and let school cafeterias serve the locally grown fruits, veggies, and other foods that students produce.