Four of Chicago’s biggest public food-service providers announced Friday that they have committed to significantly increasing the amount of locally and sustainably food they purchase and serve.
The announcements by Chicago Public Schools (CPS), the McCormick Place convention center, Midway Airport and Chartwells-Thompson Hospitality were made at the Trade Show, School Food and Policy Summit of the three-day Good Food Festival and Conference. The event, which runs through Saturday at the University of Illinois Chicago Forum, is staged by FamilyFarmed.org, a non-profit group that advocates for sustainable agriculture and small farmers and which played a leading role in securing the commitments.
CPS projects a 35 percent increase in its use of locally-grown and sustainable food items in coordination with Chartwells-Thompson, its primary food service supplier. This will expand its local/sustainable program to all schools in the Chicago public school system, which serves about 400,000 meals a day in the nation’s third-largest school food program.
The increase will build upon the school system’s purchase of more than $4.2 million in produce from regional farmers that has been served to students over the past three school years. CPS also provided a major success for the sustainable food movement when it became the first major U.S. school district to serve chicken grown without the use of antibiotics, addressing concerns that overuse of antibiotics in livestock growing was abetting the rise of antibiotic-resistant microbes connected to food-borne illnesses.
Chartwells-Thompson, along with its work with CPS, announced that it will expand its local/sustainable food program to company divisions in Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio. “We want people to make better decisions, live longer and take care of the environment,” said Travis Young, Chartwells-Thompson’s regional vice president. “We can change the way things are done in this country if enough of us get together to do it.”
McCormick Place, the largest convention center in North America, is committed to obtaining 15 percent of all of its food from local and sustainable sources, and would seek to obtain 50 percent of its produce during the upper Midwest growing season from local and/or organic growers. “Our goal is to be the most sustainable convention center in the United States,” said Kevin Jezewski, a manager for Savor Chicago, the food service provider at McCormick Place.
Midway, which has 16 restaurants on-site, has set a goal of securing 10 percent of all the food served there from local, organic and antibiotic-free sources, said Larry Acton, vice president of development for the airport’s food-services division.