Chicago Schools Give Nachos the Boot

Exec. Prod. of Franchises & Series. He previously reported for HuffPost, L.A. Daily Journal, and Biloxi Sun-Herald.
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Photo: flickr.com user SpecialKRB

Chicago public school students can say "adios" to their cheese-drenched nachos next year. School officials announced tighter nutritional guidelines Thursday to promote healthier eating, and to respond to student demands for more appetizing fare. 

Two weeks ago, a group of Chicago high school students told the school board that they were sick and tired of the "sickening" fare offered at their cafeterias. The group refuted the argument that lunch ladies could only get students to eat gloppy nachos, greasy pizzas, and soggy french fries.

The result? The new nutritional rules outlined Thursday are designed to meet or exceed the "gold" USDA's Healthier U.S. Schools Challenge.

So what's headed for the lunchroom dumpster?

  • Sorry Pop-Tarts fans: The popular toaster pastry is now persona non grata in Chicago lunchrooms, along with doughnuts and other breakfast items containing "dessert or candy-type ingredients."
  • Adios, nachos: High school students will now only be able to eat the cheesy snack once a week. The youngsters will see it even less frequently; elementary schools will serve them once a month.
  • Sayonara, spuds: Starchy vegetables will be served just once a week. 
  • Farewell, fruit juice: Lunch ladies would pour juice only twice a week, as part of the meal's fruit component. And even then, it will have to be 100% fruit juice, with no artificial sweeteners.
  • See ya, salt: School officials will reduce sodium content by 5 percent annually.

And what's being added to the menu?

  • Whole grains: Menus will be required to feature whole grains every day at lunch, and adhere to a 25 percent whole grain mandate at breakfast.
  • More veggie diversity: Orange and green aren't just the colors of the University of Miami; they're also the types of vegetables that school officials will emphasize on next year's menus.
  • Fiber: It's not just for your grandparents anymore. Chicago students will now get seven grams on average per week at breakfast, and three at lunch. 

The school officials also said they will emphasize locally grown food whenever feasible. Chicago's school system—the second largest in the nation—serves more than 120,000 breakfasts and 280,000 lunches every day.

Chicago's moves come as native daughter Michelle Obama is using her position as first lady to promote healthier eating at schools across America. Obama has promoted the USDA Healthier U.S. Schools Challenge as part of her "Let's Move" campaign aimed at child health. 

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