Healthy Fare for Kids

April 15, 2012  • 

The Healthy Fare for Kids initiative is a Chicago-based grassroots project that encourages restaurants to offer healthier food for children on their menus. Launched in the Lincoln Park area of Chicago at the end of 2011, Healthy Fare for Kids now has more than 35 participating restaurants and is embarking on a citywide effort to recruit restaurants throughout the Chicagoland area.

Diane Schmidt, local parent and health educator, came up with the idea after her decade long experience dining out with her school age daughter. “I got sick of the same kids’ menu in so many restaurants and wondered why the worst food in the restaurants always ended up on the kids’ menu,” she says. “We know the drill – mac and cheese, chicken fingers, hamburgers, hot dogs and piles of French fries, paired with pop and dessert. It is a nightmare for families trying to feed their kids well.”

“Since many families visit restaurants often, it is important that restaurants across Chicagoland offer something for kids that tastes really good but is also fresh and healthy,” Schmidt continues.

Schmidt, along with her team of a local chef and restaurant owner, a civic leader and nutrition specialist, have been thrilled at the response the program has received thus far. “I’ve been so impressed with the chefs I’ve met and their generosity and commitment to help,” says Schmidt. “Almost all the restaurants I’ve approached have been enthusiastic about the idea and have asked what they can do.”

A growing list of participating restaurants, as well as guidelines for chefs, are available on the Healthy Fare for Kids website. Restaurants have made changes such as offering antibiotic free turkey and multi-grain pancakes with fruit, serving complimentary veggies and hummus and following suggested guidelines of cooking with fresh, seasonal foods, using methods that are low in fat and serving appropriate portion sizes.

Broadening its reach, in 2013, Healthy Fare for Kids established a partnership with Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium and Sodexo, the aquarium’s food service supplier. The Shedd Aquarium has over 2.5 million visitors each year, with almost 1 million of those visitors being children. Now parents will be able to select from a number of healthy meals certified by Healthy Fare for Kids at two of their concessions. The Healthy Fare for Kids guidelines are also now endorsed by the President of Sodexo North America, opening the door for further expansion throughout the organization.

“Good health is essential for good learning, and Chicago is leading the nation with comprehensive strategies to improve the health and wellness of all residents. Every child should have the knowledge, tools and access necessary for good health,” said City of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “I applaud the Shedd Aquarium, as a destination for visitors and Chicagoans alike, for launching the Healthy Fare for Kids program to ensure children have access to healthy food.”

Visit the Healthy Fare for Kids website to learn more about how restaurants are coming to the table when it comes to nutritious and delicious kids menu offerings!