Kids Feed Capitol Hill To Beef Up School Lunch Money

The way to convince lawmakers to pony up more dollars for the school lunch program might be through their stomachs.

student chef likes her school lunch. i i

Student chef Cari Smith of Tilden High School in Chicago hopes to convince Congress to spend more on school lunch. Courtesy of Healthy Schools Campaign hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy of Healthy Schools Campaign
student chef likes her school lunch.

Student chef Cari Smith of Tilden High School in Chicago hopes to convince Congress to spend more on school lunch.

Courtesy of Healthy Schools Campaign

The nonprofit Healthy Schools Campaign brought students from Chicago's Tilden Career Community Hight School to prepare their ideal school lunch for Congress and visitors to Congress in Capitol Hill Visitor's Center. The group is launching a contest for kids to design their own school meals that are healthy and actually taste good.

And the students brought along a few high-profile teachers and moms for good measure: USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack's wife, Christie Vilsack, and Education Secretary Arne Duncan's wife, Karen Duncan.

"As teachers, we are especially aware of the difference that a healthy meal can make to a student's ability to focus and learn," Vilsack said. "Many students get the majority of their daily food at school, and this is especially true during these difficult economic times."

We know it's a little gimmicky, but the Chicago kids' effort is just one of several cropping up around the country to raise awareness about obesity and the need to improve both the funding and the content of the school lunch program. You may have heard a little something about the First Lady's efforts to combat childhood obesity this week.

As our health reporter Allison Aubrey points out, these efforts must be taken in context. The much-maligned school lunch program, which still relies heavily on surplus commodity products and costly labor, is only one part of the equation when it comes to obesity. A lot of the responsibility for kids eating habits comes down to what parents feed their kids, and how often.

Stay tuned for Aubrey's piece on All Things Considered tonight about kids and the pitfalls of constant snacking.

Still, these Windy City kids are apparently savvy enough to know that to attempt to move some money to the school lunch program in the midst of a serious recession; you've got to sweeten the pot a bit.

Besides, Capitol Hill aides always turn out for free food. Maybe they will be fortified enough to swing by the House committee hearing on school lunch today.

So what did the students make for lunch? Chicken and vegetable jambalaya, jalapeno cornbread, and a tomato-cucumber salad. Here's their recipes.

Sounds good to us, but would your kids eat it?



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.