November 12, 2012
CHICAGO – Chicago Public Schools (CPS) will take steps to expand the Healthy CPS initiative launched last month with a new Healthy Snack and Beverage Policy that updates guidelines and sets new standards for healthy food and drinks in schools across the District, including the food and drink offered in vending machines, and encourages schools to promote healthy options during in-school celebrations. The new policy will be will presented Wednesday to the Board of Education.
“This new policy sets meaningful standards and guidelines that promote health and wellness and raise awareness among our students about the importance of making healthy choices,” said Chief Executive Officer Barbara Byrd-Bennett. “It also brings our schools in line with the Mayor’s citywide goals to improve the health of people across the city. Many students eat the majority their meals within our schools and we can provide the food choices that help them stay healthy and the tools to learn healthy habits at an early age.”
The new policy’s nutrition requirements will further ensure that all CPS schools align with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s HealthierUS Schools Challenge (HUSSC), a key component of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move initiative. The HUSSC requires schools to demonstrate efforts around healthy food, nutrition education and physical activity. In October, CPS received a $4.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to support the launch of Healthy CPS, a comprehensive initiative aimed at improving the health and well-being of Chicago’s students, including the development of this new Healthy Snack and Beverages Policy and a Local School Wellness Policy, which was approved by the Board last month. Additionally, this school year, for the first time in almost three decades, all elementary school students have access to recess, a critical piece of Healthy CPS and the full school day and an important part of helping students stay active, healthy and engaged during the school day.
“A healthy environment in school helps our students succeed, and this new Healthy Snack and Beverage Policy will help set that standard across the city,” said Mayor Emanuel. “This new policy builds on the full school day, which gives our students more time with teachers in the classroom as well as dedicated time for recess, by helping to ensure that our students are equipped with the knowledge and the tools they need to excel in school and beyond.”
Under the policy, foods and beverages sold to students on school grounds, outside of meals that are already part of the National School Lunch and Breakfast Program, such as in vending machines and a la carte items sold in dining centers, will meet the District’s nutritional standards. The standards are clearly outlined in the policy and place strict limits in areas such as calories per serving, saturated fat and sodium and include:
- No more than 35 percent of total calories from fat per serving, and zero transfats
- Less than 230 mg of sodium for a snack or side dish
- Milk must be either low-fat or no fat, and limited to 8 fluid ounces
- Juice serving sizes are restricted to 6 ounces in elementary schools and 8 ounces in high schools.
The policy establishes that teachers and school staff must limit using unhealthy food as rewards and recommends that schools consider healthier options for in-school celebrations, such as holidays, student achievement and birthdays. Schools will be given a full year to implement the requirements of the new policy.
The snack and beverage policy specifically exempts food sold in concession stands during after-school events, such as sporting contests or school concerts, foods served to students on field trips, and food sold in fundraisers that take place off school grounds where adults comprise the majority of the audience.
“This new policy provides student with healthy food options and increases awareness of healthy choices and is a great step towards securing the health and wellbeing of Chicago’s students for years to come,” said Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) Commissioner Dr. Bechara Choucair. “As part of Healthy CPS, a comprehensive approach that includes creating healthy environments within schools, this policy aligns with the goals outlined in Healthy Chicago, helping us work towards making Chicago one of the healthiest cities in the country.”
Along with providing healthful school food which meets or exceeds USDA standards, the Local School Wellness policy approved by the Board last month directly affects the school environment by introducing or raising the bar in the following areas:
- Convening school Wellness Teams and regular reporting of school wellness activities
- Implementing minimum grade level requirements for nutrition education
- Requiring recess for elementary schools
- Prohibiting the use of food or physical activity as a reward or punishment
- Ensuring that students regularly participate in physical activity
Wellness “Champions” at schools will be responsible for assisting the principal and Local School Councils in ensuring compliance with components of the policy. CPS has already implemented mandatory daily recess for elementary schools as part of its new full school day.
“A healthy school environment is incredibly important for the success of our students. Healthy students are more likely to achieve in the classroom and this policy, together with the wellness policy approved last month, establishes CPS as a leader in this important area,” Byrd-Bennett said.
In 2011, Mayor Emanuel unveiled Chicago’s first every public health agenda, Healthy Chicago, which serves as a blueprint for a focused approach by CDPH to implement policies and systems changes to prioritize and transform the health of the city over the next five years, and Healthy CPSworks in conjunction with the city-wide agenda to improve the health and wellbeing of CPS students. In addition to Healthy Chicago, Mayor Emanuel has taken steps to improve the health of Chicagoans across the city and pledged to work to eliminate food deserts. These steps include: obtaining commitments from four large grocery chains to open 17 new stores in food desert areas across Chicago; partnering with Walgreens to expand 19 of its stores in food desert areas to include fresh and healthy food sections; passing an ordinance that encourages new fresh, healthy food carts to operate across the city, especially in food desert areas; opening five new farmers market in food desert areas, all of which accept LINK; passing an ordinance expanding the size limit on community gardens and urban farms that operate in the city to encourage their growth; and implementing and expanding an innovative Wellness Program, Chicago Lives Healthy, for City employees that provides free annual health screenings, check-ups, call-ins, and programming for employees and eligible spouses.
Chicago Public Schools serves 403,000 students in 681 schools. It is the nation’s third-largest school district.