Chef cooks up fresh food programs for Chicago schools

Chef Cooks Up Fresh Food Programs For Chicago Schools

Thu 30 Sep 2010

Story by Paul Boundas
 

Recently an alliance was formed between Chef Paul Boundas and Holy Trinity High School in the inner city of Chicago. They are creating an innovative program to focus on the health and well being of the school community using a healthy kitchen as its heart.

Great schools educate their students not only in the classroom, but by leveraging all resources at their disposal. At Holy Trinity High School, in Chicago’s inner city, we have found that the school kitchen can be a rich resource for the entire school community.

Schools need all the assistance they can get to support our kids. So, as a local chef and restaurateur I have partnered with Holy Trinity to develop a thriving school meal program that offers freshly prepared, nutritious meals to the entire staff and student body at the school.

My business, Country House, is family-run. We operate several school food programs throughout Chicago, all run with the care and attention of a family restaurant. 86 % of Holy Trinity students qualify for the free and reduced priced school meal program. Tim Bopp, President of Holy Trinity, explains "For many students this is the one good meal that they eat during the day. We are thrilled to be able to provide a healthy, delicious option for lunch. The response has been overwhelming with record levels of participation."

New menus, put together by the Country House, include a wide variety of cuisines from Thai Stir Fry to Greek Chicken Kebobs. Everything is made from scratch on site, with a focus on high quality ingredients, including fresh meats, locally-grown produce, and whole grain baked goods and pasta. All the chips, French fries, soda, and prepackaged foods have been eliminated from the meal program.

In previous years, Holy Trinity’s kitchen has always operated at a loss. While making foods from whole ingredients is more labor intensive, there is a huge cost savings compared to using premade and prepackaged foods. With over a 20% jump in participation and the government reimbursement of $2.74 for lunch, that larger companies claim is not enough, the program is a great success.

Students are responding positively to the lunch program, which will also incorporate learning opportunities in the school kitchen. In addition, Country House plans to host Community dinners that will offer local families a healthy and affordable family meal while raising money for the school.

Through this improved and expanded meal program, students learn healthier lifestyle choices and the role those choices can play in fighting obesity, diabetes, depression and other diet-related diseases. Everyone wins: students, the community and ultimately the nation. Who would have thought school kitchens as the agent to change a nation and the world? Jamie Oliver – we all are indebted to your vision – The Food Revolution.

About the author: Paul Boundas is a chef and owner of Country House Restaurant in Alsip, Illinois

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