We Want to Cook: Chicago’s Lunch Professionals Campaign for Cooking

Yesterday 200 lunch professionals protested in front of the Chicago Board of Education demanding that real cooking be brought back to school cafeterias. They are sick of reheating frozen food and seeing it thrown away because kids don’t find it appetizing. The effort was organized by Real Food Real Jobs and it was covered by Fox News (news article and video). Their four major demands include:

1. Actively solicit and incorporate workers’ input to improve school food.

2. Make a commitment to cooking by building working kitchens in all new schools and avoiding replacing cooked food with frozen.

3. Help lunch professionals reach their full potential through comprehensive training on cooking, serving and eating healthy food.

4. Encourage lunch professionals to partner with students and parents.

To me, these are no brainers! I’m saddened to think that lunch ladies don’t feel a part of the decision making. Wouldn’t those on the front line have the best ideas on improvement? Let’s empower the people who work directly to feed hungry children by incorporating their suggestions, teaching them cooking techniques, and involving them in discussions with parents and students. Get more information by visiting: http://www.realfoodrealjobs.org/

Resources:

Chicago Lunch Workers Hit Streets Airwaves for Real Food!

Kitchens Without Cooks: Frozen Food for Chicago’s Schoolchildren

Kitchens Without Cooks: A future of frozen food for Chicago’s Schoolchildren? (Full report PDF)

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6 Responses to We Want to Cook: Chicago’s Lunch Professionals Campaign for Cooking

  1. RainbowW April 12, 2012 at 10:47 pm #

    yeah, but you live in chicago. how seriously do you think the city and the board will take these demands in the face of aramark or a competitor saying, oh but we can do it 3 cents per meal cheaper! all you have to do is give us a 75 year contract (parking meters, anyone?).

  2. Dana Woldow April 13, 2012 at 10:50 am #

    I love it that this campaign is being organized by the school cafeteria workers’ union (and I support them 100%!), but would love it even more if they gave some estimates of what the cost difference would be to pay workers for their higher level cooking skills in those schools where currently staff are trained only to heat up and serve.

    When schools switch from scratch cooking to heat and serve, it is generally because of cost. They no longer need skilled cooks (who command higher salaries than heat and serve staff) and can generally reduce the number of workers. Not to say that this is a good model – I far prefer the scratch cooking model, as it is better for the kids, produces a tastier and healthier meal, and employs local workers at decently-paid salaries. But it is important to acknowledge that all of these benefits do come at a higher cost.

    • Coracii April 15, 2012 at 6:18 am #

      Every tomahawk missile we’ve fired at Iraq (there were thousands of them during the start up of the war) could have provided a full cooked from scratch lunch for a little over one million children. Every day we’ve spent in Afghanistan could have fed over 20 million children a fresh cooked meal. It’s not that the money doesn’t exist, it’s that our country has its priorities all wrong. The military industrial complex never has to beg for a new multi-billion dollar bomber design to get approved, but the children get forced into larger classrooms, worse resources, and garbage food because of “fiscal conservatives”.

      • Dana Woldow April 17, 2012 at 9:27 am #

        Coracii – you are so right! There is no excuse for Congress to underfund school meal programs, and yet it continues to happen. To paraphrase Ann Cooper, “It’s just not right that Americans spend more on their morning cup of coffee than the government spends on a free lunch for a low income child.” People need to speak up and demand that these vital programs be funded at a level that puts healthy scratch cooked meals within reach for all school districts, and all kids.

  3. Debra April 14, 2012 at 11:20 am #

    It’s nice to know that more and more people realize this ‘heat & serve’ way of serving lunch is not good for anyone, especially the kids. Hopefully there will be success in Chicago and other cities and towns will see the potential.

  4. Linda May 1, 2012 at 10:04 am #

    Schools need to start feeding kids better, so I agree, who wouldn’t? Kids deserve better and the price of lunches right now is outrageous! Especially when those foods are processed, frozen and not completely dependable in the health department. Hopefully, schools will take the time to change these problems in the cafeteria.

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