CPS kids get new meal options, including smoothies, baked potatoes, chilaquiles and more

Students have complained about CPS school lunches for years. Officials hope the updated menu will be more appealing.

SHARE CPS kids get new meal options, including smoothies, baked potatoes, chilaquiles and more
A chicken ham flatbread with caramelized onions and cheddar cheese.

CPS students are getting new menu options, including this chicken ham flatbread with caramelized onions and cheddar cheese.

Provided by CPS

Chicago Public Schools students may be swapping sad looking hot dogs and hamburger patties between slices of white bread for baked potatoes, smoothies and chilaquiles.

Kids are getting new — and hopefully more appetizing — food options this year after a slew of summer taste testing events garnered feedback from students across the city. Officials hope the updated menu will appease students who have complained about the unappetizing, stale and “icky” food they have previously been served.

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CPS CEO Pedro Martinez said over the summer that school meals are the largest target of student complaints he’s heard in his time with the district. Kids made their views plenty clear at the tasting events, letting it be known when they found food “gross,” “really bad” or “dry.”

“Nutrition is a key part of our students’ well-being. Making sure we provide students with nutritious and delicious menu options — while also expanding their palates — is a key part of our school meal program,” Martinez said in a statement Thursday announcing the new meal options. 

CPS students taste tested breakfast tacos and veggie pasta salads this summer.

CPS students taste tested breakfast tacos and veggie pasta salads this summer.

Nereida Moreno/WBEZ

Those include smoothies, baked potatoes with chili and cheese, veggie pasta salad, Asian noodle salad, Chicago ham frittata, pierogis, BBQ tofu and more. Breakfast tacos — many students’ favorite item — and pizza, will remain options.

The district’s food vendors, Aramark and Open Kitchens, also made tweaks to existing meals based on kids’ feedback, officials said. About 2,100 students across 41 schools participated in the taste tests.

Chili cheese with sour cream, raisins and milk

A group of students at Phillips Academy High School created highly produced photos of CPS lunch meals last year to draw attention to the unappetizing options, like this one featuring a meal of chili with cheese and sour cream, raisins and milk.

Provided/William Hendrickson

Students have complained about CPS school lunches for years. Last year, a group of students at Phillips Academy High School teamed up with a teacher to creatively highlight those gripes with highly produced photos of mediocre lunches. Muslim and Jewish students have also complained about the availability of halal and kosher meals that meet their religious dietary needs.

Despite those complaints, CPS officials stuck with Aramark for school meals under a new $88.5 million contract that also brought in Open Kitchens, a Chicago-based company, for a portion of the food services. The district said it sought bids from other vendors but ended up with Aramark again.

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