"Why is the worst food in the restaurant always on the
Diane Schmidt wanted to know the answer to this question. No.
Diane Schmidt wanted to change the question. More than that. She
wanted to obliterate it.
So this mother of a 10-year-old daughter went to her alderman,
Michele Smith, who was recently elected to represent the 43rd ward
in Chicago. And she asked for help in contacting restaurants in the
ward - which encompasses the neighborhoods of Lincoln Park and Old
Town - to make their children's menus healthier.
This led Schmidt to Sarah Stegner, the owner and head chef at
Prairie Grass Cafe in Northbrook and the recently closed Prairie
Fire Restaurant in Chicago. Stegner is also on the board of Green
City Market, which sells and advocates for healthy food from local
This match provided a spark - one that Schmidt and Stegner hope
will ignite the entire city.
Schmidt and Stegner's Healthy Fare for Kids initiative launched
in December with 11 participating, 43rd ward restaurants who have
agreed to put at least one healthy, seasonal and delicious meal on
their children's menu. Schmidt and Stegner want restaurants to
learn one simple idea: if you cook it, they will eat.
The key to this, for Stegner, is that the foods be
"You have to offer it and put it in front of kids and if it
tastes good and they're willing, it will work," says the chef, who
does not serve fries at Prairie Fire.
Stegner says she also recently put a white fish on the
children's menu. "I was pleasantly surprised how many kids ordered
Stegner, who was a health educator, points out that "we have
15-20 percent childhood obesity of kids who live in the city," and
restaurants are a major source of many of their diets. It's not
just about serving them good food, it's about "teaching them to eat
good food - and what is good food. This is so important for them to
be healthy adults."
The program currently has 15 restaurants. And Stegner and
Schmidt are reaching out to new chefs all the time.
Stegner said that when she first started calling her fellow
chefs, she was "really impressed with the reception" to the idea of
creating healthy fare for kids. "Even [restaurants] that aren't
really family friendly were open to it and committed and
"I think quite a few restaurants are already aware of the issue
and naturally their food is delicious and healthy."
Chefs or restaurant owners interested in participating can email
Diane Schmidt at [email protected].
More information, as well as guidelines and possible recipes, can
be found at healthyfareforkids.com.
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