Organic-lunch project pulled out of Chicago elementary school

A school-lunch chef has pulled his Organic School Project out of a Chicago elementary school after district officials balked at his plans to expand the program to more schools. The first and only organic meal program in the nation’s third-largest school district had also provided Alcott Elementary with a pesticide-free garden, wellness classes, and composting; it failed in part thanks to long-standing prepackaged-food contracts and labor-union rules that prevented OSP volunteers from helping prepare the more labor-intensive organic lunches alongside paid cafeteria workers. Price was also a factor: Not including labor and overhead, an OSP lunch cost about $2.32, compared to a traditional school lunch cost of — gulp — about 55 cents. The district claimed that school-lunch sales dropped 3 percent during the program, but the OSP contends sales rose 8 percent. Says OSP founder Greg Christian of leaving Alcott, “I realized there was no buy-in from [the district]. They value unions and milk contracts above the health of our kids.”