By Brittany Wright, HSC media and outreach specialist
Last week, I accompanied a group of Chicago Vocational Career Academy (CVCA) culinary students, including the winning team from the Cooking up Change Chicago healthy cooking contest, to Miller Amish Poultry Farm.
The CVCA team won top honors at Cooking up Change Chicago with a lunch featuring freshly-baked chicken drumsticks; that chicken was raised without antibiotics on Miller Farms. Students in Cooking up Change are limited to ingredients that school dining managers are able to order for school lunch and this year for the first time, that list includes fresh chicken raised without antibiotics. Chicago Public Schools recently began serving this chicken as part of its lunch program. You can learn more about the freshly-baked chicken in Chicago schools here.
On the tour, the students had the chance to meet Amish farmers and learn how Miller raises chickens without antibiotics in a cage-free, humane environment. Mark Tilbury and Kerri McClimen of The Pew Campaign on Human Health and Industrial Farming explained the importance of antibiotic-free food production. To learn more about the use of antibiotics in food production and its connection to health, check out this excellent overview from Pew. (For another great overview of the issue that also discusses the decision by CPS to begin serving chicken raised without the use of antibiotics, check out this article in Wired science blog.)
CVCA student Kaliah explained, “This field trip has given me a chance to understand how chicken is produced.” Classmate Jerome Sims said he’d learned, “when the animal is healthier, the meat will be better.”
After the students’ hands-on experience with chickens, we headed over to the processing plant and learned about the different measures to ensure food is safe for consumption as it is prepped for distribution throughout the Midwest to customers including Whole Foods, Chipotle, a variety of regional grocery stores, and recently Chicago Public Schools.
After the trip, Cooking up Change teammate Ciara Lawson explained, “It has given me more background information on how healthy [antibiotic-free chicken] really is. It can change a person’s perspective.” Her teammate Jerome Sims added “I feel great because we used natural and healthy chicken” in the winning Cooking up Change lunch. Student chef Diamonte said, “I think this trip really gave us a better understanding on what we are cooking and on what happens to the food.”
Now, the CVCA students will bring these lessons to Congress! On May 10, the students will take part in a Congressional briefing on serving food raised without antibiotics in school lunch. That day, the lunch they created will be served for lunch the House of Representatives cafeteria! Take a moment to send a letter inviting your senators and representative to attend the briefing and try the students’ award-winning school lunch!
Later in May, the students will be back in Washington, D.C. to compete against teams from across the country in the Cooking up Change national finals. Stay posted for updates!