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Chicago Chef To Begin Serving Organic School Lunches

(Beyond Pesticides, February 2, 2007) Joshua Grabowsky, a chef and CEO of busypeople inc., a suburban organic catering firm serving the Chicago area, is starting a business serving organic school lunches. Max’s Organic Planet, which he’ll run from within busypeople, is an effort to provide healthy, organic lunches to public and private schools in the city and on the North Shore. Mr. Grabowsky and busypeople, inc. will also be providing 100% certified organic meals at the upcoming 25th National Pesticide Forum convened by Beyond Pesticides in Chicago and co-sponsored by the Chicago-based Safer Pest Control Project.

For many children, including Mr. Grabowsky, school lunch was a thing of dread, often reviled and discarded by unappetized students. With two kids of his own, Mr. Grabowsky is turning his long-lived school-lunch fear into a business that he hopes will help both parents and kids banish the concept of cafeteria mystery meat from their collective memories.

Mr. Grabowsky is gearing up for the 2007–08 school year, gauging interest and offering pilot programs and weeklong taste tests, so that school administrators, parents and students will sign on for organic eats in September. One such test at Lake Forest Montessori resulted in kids eating double their average amount of food, he says.

“The difference was that the middle-elementary kids, who despised the traditional lunch and brought their own bagged lunches, caught wind of the organic offerings and starting eating like a pack of hyenas,” Mr. Grabowsky says. While the program can be adapted for kids ranging in age from 2 to 18 years old, Mr. Grabowsky thinks these middle schoolers may be the best audience for Max’s Organic Planet. “These kids are more picky than the five-and-unders, and they love to learn about food.” His response to picky eaters is what he calls the “three-ingredient rule,” simplifying dishes so they have as few ingredients as possible.

“People try to hide [vegetables] and make weird-looking concoctions. No way! Kids like to be able to recognize each ingredient on its own. If they have to ask ‘What’s in that?,’ forget about it.” Mr. Grabowsky’s goal is to contract with schools for hot lunch every day, but the company is offering alternatives for communities that need more flexible plans. Those include a Monday, Wednesday, Friday plan; TGIOF (Thank God It’s Organic Friday); and Organic Week, providing one week of organic meals per month.

Cost varies based on the schools’ needs. Larger schools will be able to negotiate volume discounts, but lunches will average between $3 and $6 per student per day. Healthy cooking and gardening classes, as well as yoga and meditation, are add-ons to help give kids an integrated approach to healthy eating.

Down the road, Mr. Grabowsky hopes kids will grow most of the vegetables used in the lunches through the gardening classes. When schools sign on for a yearlong program, 20 weeks of cooking classes (one every other week during the school year) are included at no extra cost. Mr. Grabowsky has no fears of kids being served healthier lunches opting to trade them with others who brown-bag junk food. Meals will include chicken tenders baked (not fried) with olive oil, pasta with meat sauce (made from grass-fed sirloin) and salad with raspberry vinaigrette. Every menu includes a protein, starch, vegetable and fruit. “We’re trying to provide foods that are normal foods, that they’re used to,” he says, “but set the tone for the next ten years.”

Source: Timeout Chicago

TAKE ACTION: For more information on organic school lunches, school gardens, and getting organic food into your school, sign up for the School Pesticide Monitor or visit the archives. For more info on busypeople inc., visit www.busypeopleinc.com.


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