Evanston/Skokie School District 65’s elementary and magnet schools have won HealthierUS Schools certification from the federal Agriculture Department.

The “bronze” level award the local schools received is the lowest of four categories in the certification program, but so far only six other districts in the state have qualified at all, and only three schools have won the top level “gold award of distinction” designation.

A description of the requirements to qualify for the different performance levels is available online.

The Evanston schools will each receive an award plaque and a banner to display at the school and a $500 prize to continue their efforts toward healthier lifestyle choices.

The district’s middle schools did not receive awards under the program.

The HealthierUS School Challenge (HUSSC) is a voluntary initiative established by the USDA to recognize schools participating in the National School Lunch Program that have created healthier school environments by promoting nutrition and physical activity.

To achieve recognition, schools were required to serve a different fruit and vegetable daily, serve whole grains at least three times per week, serve low fat milk (1% or less), and follow strict criteria for fat, sugar and calories on the a la carte line.

Nutrition and physical education standards must be in place along with fundraising practices that support sales of non-food items.

Approximately 45 percent of District 65 students participate in the school lunch program. To become eligible for the silver or gold levels, schools would need to increase average daily participation to 60 percent for Silver and 70 percent for Gold.  

Photos of meals and informational nutrition labels for lunch items are available on the district’s Food Service webpage.

Above: From the District 65 website, a recent lunch of baked chicken patty on a whole grain hamburger bun with whipped potatoes, vegetarian baked beans and mandarin oranges.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Hopefully this is just a beginning

    School lunch has certainly improved during my tenure as a parent in District 65:  we are, indeed, seeing more fresh vegetables and fruits, salads, sandwiches, and legumes, and more attention is being paid to wellness and nutrition in the curriculum.

    However, I reiterate my concern about the high amounts of sugar in school lunches and breakfasts:  Elementary school children still eat "Brunch For Lunch" (pancakes, waffles or french toast sticks with syrup and juice) weekly, and are offered canned fruit in syrup or 100% fruit juice to fulfill the "fruit" requirement, sweetened milk, and packaged cookies to fulfill the "whole grain" requirement – often in the same meal.   Breakfasts often consist of sweetened cereal and sweetened milk with fruit juice and cookies (euphemistically referred to as "whole-grain crackers.")  

    I am concerned that, despite the district's efforts to improve,  students are still being taught poor eating habits, and these poor habits have serious lifelong health repercussions, especially in our most vulnerable populations.

    I invite all readers to get involved by attending the free showings and panel discussion of the documentary Lunch Line on April 28 at Northwestern's Block Museum Cinema and and April 30 at the Evanston Public Library.

  2. “High” hurdle

    Phew!  Glad we satisfy the federal standards!  I almost snorted water out of my nose when I read this article.  My daughter goes to Dewey, and they get the crappy breakfast for lunch served at least once a week.  I'm glad that meets the USDA standards for a healthy lunch!  Luckily, my daughter gets her lunch packed by  us.

    1. Re: “High” hurdle

      But wait, it won't be long before she won't be allowed to "brown-bag" it because you, the parent, don't know what's good for her. Look at the Chicago school where the government (read: taxpayer) is forced to spend $2.25 per child for lunch whether the child wants it or not, and I bet half of the so-called "healthy" food ends up in the garbage barrel!

  3. Well said

    Well said, Michelle! I like how you addressed specific menu components that can easily be changed if only District 65's values were changed. …Value for children and the impact of food on health, development, and learning! No one should see this bronze level certification as a success. I'll continue sending my child's lunch!

  4. 45%

    Can you guess who comprises the 45% of students who participate in the school lunch program? The ones who need optimal nutrition the most!

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