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Chicago students take healthy lunches to Capitol Hill

Lots of young people visit Washington, D.C., to learn about history. Five students from Chicago recently went there to change it.

Together, Lashonda Livingston, Aljibri Reed, Henry Walton, Cari Smith and Jakaia Franklin delivered a message to Congress: Kids across the country are counting on you to help improve the quality of food kids eat at school.

The students are all members of the culinary arts program at Tilden Career Community Academy High School. Last fall, they designed the winning meal in Chicago’s Cooking up Change competition (www.cookingupchange.org).

The contest challenges students to create a new school meal that exceeds the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s nutrition standards for the National School Lunch program; uses at least one local ingredient; and, of course, tastes delicious. Cooking up Change is a project of the Healthy Schools Campaign (www.healthyschoolscampaign.org), a grantee organization of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

While in D.C., the Tilden team prepared their winning meal for members of Congress and their staffs. It was also served in the Longworth House of Representatives cafeteria, where it sold out. The menu: chicken and vegetable jambalaya, jalapeño cornbread and a tomato-cucumber salad.

On Capitol Hill, Christie Vilsack (wife of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, and a teacher and mom) and Karen Duncan (wife of Education Secretary Arne Duncan, and also a teacher and mom) joined the kids to kick off a new, nationwide edition of Cooking up Change. High school and college students are invited to design new school meals that meet strict standards for nutrition and taste. Three finalist teams will win trips to Detroit in May for a cook-off to crown a winner.

Support for improved school nutrition is strong and growing. First Lady Michelle Obama has drawn significant attention to the issue with her Let’s Move initiative. (The Kellogg Foundation is a key collaborator in Let’s Move through its role in the Partnership for a Healthier America, a foundation created to support the initiative’s goals.)

“We have an opportunity to make a significant difference in the lives and futures of our country’s children,” said Rochelle avis, founding executive director of Healthy Schools Campaign.

The National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program—both funded under the Child Nutrition Act—are significant sources of food for many children, particularly during difficult economic times. In 2007, the programs provided lunch to more than 30.5 million children and breakfast to 10.1 million children.

The Tilden students’ trip to Capitol Hill may play a role in making those meals healthier.

It certainly had a profound impact on the students themselves, most of whom hadn’t flown on a plane before. For one day in our nation’s capital, adults, TV crews and legislators wanted to know exactly what was on these students’ minds.

“I’m proud to put my school on the map in a positive way as the school that’s helping change what students everywhere eat for lunch,” said Cari Smith.

Share the students’ adventure through these photos:  http://www.oprah.com/health/The-Healthy-Lunch-Bunch

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