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Ground-breaking Partnership Brings Rachael Ray Recipe to Chicago Student Lunches

Chicago students enjoy a healthy school lunch created by Rachael Ray’s Yum-o! non-profit organization

Students enjoyed the new Windy City Chicken lunch, made possible by a unique collaboration USDA agencies, a Rachael Ray, and the Chicago schools system.

One of USDA’s most important missions is providing healthy meals to school lunch programs across the country.  In a unique partnership, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) and Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) agencies teamed up with Rachael Ray’s Yum-o! non-profit organization, the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) system and Chartwells-Thompson Hospitality to create and serve a new healthy, tasty and exciting school lunch recipe.

To do this, Bob Bloomer of Chartwells-Thompson, the provider of meals in most of Chicago’s schools, worked with the Agricultural Marketing Service to acquire fresh, unprocessed chicken. After issuing a solicitation and competitive bids from domestic suppliers, the Agricultural Marketing Service awarded the first contract for two truckloads—that’s 80,000 pounds —of raw chicken leg quarters for shipment to Chicago’s schools. 

Next the Midwest Food and Nutrition Staff worked with Rachael Ray ’s Yum-o! non-profit to create a healthy, tasty meal. “I had so much fun creating this recipe with Chicago Public Schools,” said Ray. “I tried to create a recipe that would capture the cultural diversity of Chicago and most importantly, that the kids would love to eat.”

The result: Windy City Chicken — a savory meal of chicken, sweet and spicy baked beans, brown rice and orange-glazed carrots. Prepared by food service staff, the new menu items were served to thrilled Second City students in more than 450 schools as part of National School Lunch Week on October 13th.  NBC-Chicago, which covered the event, captured the reaction of a number of children who raved about the meal. “It tastes like heaven,” said one student.

October was National Farm to School Month, which promotes locally-sourced foods in school meal programs, so the menu also featured locally grown food. Chicago Public Schools, through its primary food provider, Chartwells-Thompson, has the largest farm to school program in the Midwest, with more than $2.5 million in fruits and vegetables purchased from regional growers and producers. The carrots used for the special menu are one of the items in CPS’s well-known frozen local program. They were grown within 250 miles of the city, picked at their peak ripeness and flash frozen to preserve their fresh-tasting flavor—and nutrients.

The special menu entree will be served again in the future. In fact, the Agricultural Marketing Service has already awarded additional contracts for more of the chicken.