Fighting Childhood Obesity with Food
We’ve all heard the statistics. Eighteen percent of America’s youth is obese, creating a problem of epidemic proportions. Diet is a large part of the equation when it comes to weight and one area chef feels school lunches aren’t stacking up.
Meet Paul Boundas of Chicago’s Country House Restaurant, a chef dedicated to showing schools how to create healthy lunches within the monetary restrictions of the National School Lunch Program. When we caught up with Boundas, he was in the kitchen at Holy Trinity High School in Wicker Park where 85% of students are on the government’s free and reduced lunch program. What that means is that Boundas is on a tight budget – $2.90/serving to be exact.
“It’s kind of a challenge and something that we wanted to prove it could be done,” he says.
Within that limit, Boundas serves up restaurant-quality menu items including grilled chicken, roasted potatoes, broccoli, Greek salad, and fresh-squeezed lemonade. What’s even more impressive? Students actually like it.
“The food that’s made here is healthy and it tastes good,” Holy Trinity senior Julio Delacruz says. “It inspires us to have a healthy diet. It inspires us to have a healthy life.”
Obesity presents a variety of difficulties according to Garry Sigman of Loyola’s Pediatric Weight Management Program.
“[Obesity] increases one’s serum cholesterol and lipids and the so-called ‘bad cholesterol’ which is going to result in heart disease,” he says. “It also causes a diabetes risk beyond the fact that overweight is a social stigma to this day.”
School by school, tray by tray, Boundas is doing what he can to fight obesity and teach students that healthy food tastes good. Student feedback let’s him know he’s on the right track.
“To hear the kids say, ‘I didn’t go to McDonald’s today because the food at school was better,’ is really where you … see the changes.”