Writing a School Food Policy That Everyone Can Stomach (Free Download!)

Writing a School Food Policy That Everyone Can Stomach (Free Download!)


AGC’s commitment to healthy, sustainable food is central to our model and to our students’ success at AGC and beyond.

Food is a community health issue. Children require proper nutrition for optimal growth and development. Eating habits that begin in childhood play a key role in lifelong health issues like cholesterol, blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes, and can impact many other chronic diseases.

Food is a social justice issue. Nutrition-related diseases disproportionately impact low-income and minority communities, and one in four Chicago Public Schools students are obese.

Food is an academic issue.  Nutrition impacts socio-emotional and academic functioning. It is well documented that hunger has a strong negative impact on classroom behavior and academic success. Additionally, major studies have shown that the quality of a student’s diet has a major impact on academic performance even after controlling for socioeconomic factors. 

Unfortunately, most young people are not following healthy dietary guidelines. Schools can send conflicting if not detrimental messages when they promote unhealthy food in their cafeterias, vending machines, bake sales, and as rewards for classroom success.

As we were creating this unique school, knew that we wanted to develop a schoolwide culture that supported our mission and vision surrounding healthy food.

But how do we define healthy food in a way that makes sense to students, is accessible to students, and matches ever-evolving research and medical perspectives?  How do we get our teachers and families on board? How do we ask an entire community to change the way they eat? How do we honor important cultural food norms? How do we ensure that no one feels ashamed? How can we meet our students and families where they are and inspire them to grow?

We knew that it was important that our staff and parents model healthy choices for our students. We knew we wanted to help our students develop a healthy relationship with food and an appreciation for healthy food. We knew that we needed to create a schoolwide wellness policy that included nutrition guidelines.

Like most things at AGC, our food policy grew organically, over many conversations with different stakeholders. Our policy was a living breathing thing. It began as a sensible “stoplight” based on nationally accepted best practices. Over the years, specific items would appear at school that would challenge the framework. We had heated debates with our students over the hot sauce they brought from home which was salty and processed, but, they argued, encouraged them to eat more vegetables. Over time, the food policy stoplight developed into a lengthy and confusing mix of broad categories and specific products. In recent years, we reflected on the purpose and process of the stoplight in order to better clarify and curate the information.

AGC Food Policy Poster KED.jpg

Click to download AGC’s Food Policy poster for free!


Would you like to implement a food policy stoplight in your school or community?

Contact us at hello@agcchicago.org to share your stoplight success story or to inquire about support with culture, curriculum, and operations integration.

What’s a Changemaker Advisory? A Student Explains

What’s a Changemaker Advisory? A Student Explains

So I am in a Changemaker advisory, which is a group of students who had decided to make a difference in the world one action at a time. When teachers show children how to make a difference in the world it only makes the world that much more better and more of a home to everyone. Not many schools are lucky enough to have this type of education. If you can be a part of making the world to a better place, you inspire others to do the same. That is what advisory is trying to accomplish.  We want to make this planet a place for everyone to be safe, cared for, and happy. We think this truly can be a goal for everyone to achieve. Our advisory is a group who wants to take action and continues to do so to make the world better.

Joaquin V. and the Changemaker Advisory.

I chose to join this group at the end of 6th grade and to get my best friend to join me. I thought we could be in the same class and, as a bonus, improve our high-school applications. I thought this was a loophole to make 7th grade better. I’m glad I did because now I am helping spread awareness of all the problems we can solve in the world today, If we all joined together as one race of humans. We can accomplish so much as long as there are people willing to do it and now I am one of those people along with my best friend and my advisory group.

The way the Changemaker advisory works is that we first come up with topics — lots and lots of them. Then after we spilled out our ideas and cannot think of anymore, we proceed to start thinning them out. We think about actions that may be too complex or that need special materials that we do not have. When we have a group of topics that we are happy with, we then vote because it’s important that we take in everyone’s opinion so that the action is something we can all contribute to equally. After we completed the idea phase we continue on and start to research about the topic and have discussions about what materials we will need, what actions we will take, and when. After we take action, we discuss how it went to see our progress and how to to improve in the future.

One goal we have is currently being able to attend WE Day which is an event for kids who take action to make the world a better place. WE Day is on April 25, 2018 at the Allstate arena in Illinois, but is also happening in different places such as The United kingdom and Seattle.

I hope the Changemaker group continues to take action as the years go by and maybe even after I don’t attend AGC anymore, when I’m in college studying with my own group!  To be honest, I might not have as clear of an idea to how the future may be like for the Chagemaker group. This is my second to last year at AGC, and I feel a little concerned that we haven’t thought far into the future, even though I won’t be here. I was one of the first kids to join this special advisory, so I made a little bit of AGC history while also changing the world little by little. Even though I can’t see what the future will be like, I’m sure that it will be really bright.

– Joaquin V.

This blog post was written by a student serving as a brand ambassador in AGC’s after-school club “Telling our Stories.”

AGC 2nd Graders Study Social Advocates Across History

AGC 2nd Graders Study Social Advocates Across History

AGC’s 2nd graders finished a unit of inquiry this week on social advocacy and “Making Our Voices Heard.” During each 6-week unit of inquiry, students master common core standards while exploring a central question using a 5 step process of inquiry: invitation and discovery, empathy and exploration, defining and engaging, ideate and representing and, finally, developing and reflecting – acting on what they’ve learned. For the last 6 weeks, students have focused on the central idea that, in a democracy, people create a better world through problem-finding and then organizing with others to make their voices heard. Students studied the responsibility of citizens in a democracy to improve their communities and learned about the many individuals and groups who have used their voices throughout history to make positive change and the methods they used. They studied the structure of Chicago’s government, important social movements throughout history, and interviewed social advocates within our community.

For their final project, students chose an advocate to research independently and then invited their peers and families to watch them present what they’d learned at a “living wax museum.” In addition to presentations including timelines of the advocate’s life and work, students dressed up as their advocate of choice and invited guests to press a “button” to hear a fact about the advocate. Our students did an incredible job representing advocates who changed the course of history, including Abraham Lincoln, Susan B. Anthony, Jane Addams, Rosa Parks, Cesar Chavez and more. For videos and more photos from this project, visit AGC on instagram and facebook. We especially encourage you to check out this project on John Chapman (Johnny Appleseed) from one of AGC’s Diverse Learners.

Many students also chose to research contemporary advocates, who are still actively shaping our future, including Daryll Heller, a parent of one of our students, Malala Yousafazi, a young girl working for equality in education today,  Vandana Shiva, an anti-GMO activist, and Leonardo Dicaprio, the environmental advocate.



This 2nd grader invented a new hero for Halloween called the “Protector of the Arctic.” He chose to study an environmental advocate focused on climate change and the arctic, and discovered ctor/advocate Leonardo Dicaprio through his research. (Click to view presentation.)

“My halloween costume was actually the Protector of the Arctic, and Leonardo wants to protect the arctic because of the global warming heat pointed at the arctic, so I thought if he wanted to do the same thing as my character, I would really like to study him.”  – 2nd Grade Student I.


making our voices heard malala
This student chose to study Malala Yousafazi, who has been advocating for equal access education for girls since she was 12, just a few years older than this 2nd grader!



Can Yoga Help Disrupt Cycles of Violence in Chicago? AGC and Partners Featured in Illumine Chicago Article

Can Yoga Help Disrupt Cycles of Violence in Chicago? AGC and Partners Featured in Illumine Chicago Article

Last week, AGC was featured in Illumine Chicago’s Anniversary Issue. The piece, which can be explored in full here, follows the work of Carla Tantillo, founder of Mindful Practices.

While teaching in South Lawndale, Tantillo felt powerless to protect against the cycles of violence that ravished their community. While she practiced yoga regularly for her own emotional and physical health, it was’t until she read an article about yoga being taught in schools that she realized the same techniques she used to manage her stress could help her students manage theirs, to lessen the emotional impacts of community violence and even to prevent violent incidents.

Tantillo set her sights on creating an accessible yoga curriculum for students and teachers. AGC was one if the first schools to implement Tantillo’s Mindful Practices approach, which debuted during AGC’s  first school year in 2008, but many have since followed suit. Mindful Practices now offers a dozen unique K-12 programs and teacher trainings in 50 communities all over Chicago, and in 130 schools and schools districts around the world.

Mindful Practices conducted a two-year study with an 80% low-income school and found a 21% decrease in disciplinary referrals for students participating in yoga and mindfulness programming. When a special-needs school implementing the program lost their yoga funding,  they found that disciplinary incidents increased over 300%.

AGC students practice morning yoga / Kristie Kahns for Ditlo


At AGC, the Mindful Practices curriculum has facilitated student-led morning yoga. Students take turns leading their peers through a series of centering poses which help them transition from the excitement of breakfast into their work day. Students, staff, and parents alike have learned to use yoga as a tool to manage their energy and stress.

Tameka Lawson
AGC parent Tameka Lawson leads yoga in Englewood / M. Spencer Green for AP Photo


AGC’s work with Mindful Practices is part of a much larger movement in Chicago and across the world. I Grow Chicago, led by AGC parent, Tameka Lawson, uses yoga and community gardening to bring peace to Chicago’s Englewood community, one of the city’s most violent neighborhoods. Ms. Lawson explains, in this piece from People Magazine, that her students “live in an environment where everything’s rushed, everything’s pressured. So if you breathe through certain things, you are able to see clearer. Then they can act rather than react.” Chicago Police officer Daliah Goree, who refers at-risk youth to Ms. Lawson’s program, agrees: “when they get in a tense situation, they can breathe and relax and make the right decision instead of jumping out at someone and hitting them.”

Academic research supports the work of I Grow Chicago. In a study featuring at-risk and incarcerated youth, researchers in Oakland found significant improvements in stress resilience, self-control and self-awareness among youth in a participants in a yoga and mindfulness program.

To see firsthand the impact of yoga and mindfulness on youth, we invite you to visit AGC for one of our monthly morning tours. See our schedule and sign up here.

AGC 4th Graders Ask McDonalds to “Retire the Clown” in Local Protest

AGC 4th Graders Ask McDonalds to “Retire the Clown” in Local Protest

Last week, on Tuesday, November 12th, AGC’s 4th grade classes joined Corporate Accountability International in protesting McDonalds’ restaurants targeted marketing to children. Their demands were simple: retire the clown! The students’ homemade signs included slogans like “Kids NOT Lovin’ It.” kids not lovin it Siram Madhusoodanan, the director of Corporate Accountability International’s “Value the Meal” campaign, explains that McDonald’s marketing “take[s] advantage of the developmental vulnerability of kids.” In his coverage of the protest for the Chicago Tribune and Pioneer Local, Chuck Fieldman adds “just as the Marlboro Man and Joe Camel were used by tobacco companies in cigarette advertising before being retired, it’s time to retire Ronald McDonald.”

AGC 4th grader Joaquin Valencia and his family were interviewed for the article, as they stopped eating McDonald’s altogether four months ago. “I loved it,” Joaquin said, “but I know that food isn’t good for me.” “Fast food is easy and cheap,” his mother, Minerva acknowledges, “but we need to educate ourselves about what we eat and have to make healthier choices.”

Healthier choices are a foundation of AGC’s educational program and philosophy. Nutritious, local and scratch-made foods are showcased in AGC’s breakfast and lunch menus, explored in AGC’s curriculum, whose International Baccalaureate Programme includes Units of Inquiry like “Farm to Table,” and “We are What we Eat;” and reinforced by the school culture, including in parent-run events like the Taste of AGC Fall Harvest Festival.

4th grade teacher Trey Thompson explains how this field trip fits into AGC’s philosophy and curriculum: “We have a pretty progressive view on how food affects kids, and we eat all organic food at our school. We just finished a unit of inquiry on persuasion, so this was a great exercise in talking about how people are persuaded.” Read the full Chicago Tribune article here.

AGC Joins CPS and Chicago Architecture Foundation to Redesign Public School

AGC Joins CPS and Chicago Architecture Foundation to Redesign Public School

Yesterday, the Chicago Architecture Foundation and Chicago Public Schools hosted an incredible meeting of minds to begin the process of redesigning public schools. The forum, titled “Changing the Outcomes: Designing Smart for the Next Generation of Chicago’s Learners” brought together leaders in education and public administration, including Mayor Rahm Emanuel himself.

The forum, organized by CPS and the Chicago Architecture Foundation was hosted by John Syversten and Gabrielle Lyon, of the Chicago Architecture Foundation, and Trung Le, the founder of Wonder by Design and visionary designer of AGC’s Net Positive future campus. Many of Chicago’s changemakers were represented, including Chicago Public Schools, Hack Studios, After School Matters, the Public Building Commission, Chicago Children’s Museum, Greater Good Studios, TUR Partners, NLU College of Education, LEAP Innovations, DePaul University, Chicago Public Library, The New Teacher Center, Cannon Design, The Brinson Foundation, Perspectives Charter Schools and the Office of Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Trung Le led the day’s workshops, including an interactive exploration of the role of school, and a collaborative activity itself, during which small groups were tasked with designing a path to success for an individual CPS student based on a brief autobiography. Between these active workshops, a series of short presentations provided the group with a baseline or “state of our schools.” Leaders from CPS, including the Chief Facility Officer and Chief of Core Curriculum (Mary De Runtz and Mario Rossero,) shared their goals and priorities for the year, encouraging student-driven curriculum, 21st century skills of collaboration, communication and critical thinking, and the expansion of best-practice academic approaches like the International Baccalaureate Programme. As an organization that has been prioritizing and promoting these principles since 2008, we were thrilled to see this philosophy echoed by our partners at Chicago Public Schools. Providing further context for the forum’s task, Demographer Rob Paral presented research on the demographic trends in our city, reviewing the population trends of the past 10 years and looking forward into the next decade. With the exception of Chicago’s Southwest side, where schools are overcrowded due to population growth, and areas near the loop, where professional populations continue to flock, the city is in a period of population decline.


Mayor Emanuel’s appearance after the presentations was unexpected and deeply inspiring. He came to deliver a call-to-action to the group, urging the designers and thinkers in the room to “do something that we in the public sector don’t have a chance to do.” “Office architecture is going through a redesign,” he said “schools should go through a redesign based on what they need.” He called upon the forum to rethink space to optimize cost, ideal learning spaces, and teacher and student utility – with an emphasis on fostering collaboration and critical 21st century skills in our schools.

Following Mayor Emanuel, AGC’s Founder and Executive Director Sarah Elizabeth Ippel shared our school’s mission and vision for the future of education. “Thank you, Mayor Emanuel, for coming to introduce me today,” she joked. AGC was humbled by the opportunity to share our work to reimagine what’s possible in public education.

After Ms. Ippel’s talk, the work began in earnest, as each small group worked together to design a pathway for one of five real CPS students.  The exercise illuminated the challenges and opportunities faced by our young people and led each group to develop a manifesto of beliefs about education.


AGC Schoolyard Marketplace | Fridays at 1:30pm

AGC Schoolyard Marketplace | Fridays at 1:30pm

At the Academy for Global Citizenship, Summer Camp is an opportunity for new students to get acclimated to our unique culture, returning students to keep up with academic and social skills over the break, and for everyone to explore their entrepreneurial sides through the development of a weekly schoolyard farmers’ market.

We invite you to join our summer campers at their weekly market at our Annex location, 4941 W. 46th St. on the following dates:

– Friday, July 11th from 1:30-3:30
– Friday, July 18th from 1:30-3:30
– Friday, July 25th from 1:30-3:30
– Friday, August 1st from 1:30-3:30

During the week, summer campers, aged 5-12 will enjoy an array of activities, including field trips, sports workshops, Hip Hop dance lessons, collaborative games, Humane Education and some time to “Read, Write and Relax.”

Rise and Shine Sports Academy provides a mix of athletic training, leadership development, and life skill education enabling youth to take daily action towards attaining their goals. Campers will develop as teammates, peers and individual leaders throughout their athletic journey.

The Kids Golf Foundation has generously donated clubs and golf pro Matt Haskamp will be donating his time to teach the Snag Golf Curriculum to our campers.

Matli Dance Academy will provide our campers Hip-Hop dance lessons and the opportunity to explore self-expression through movement.

Our partners at H.E.A.R.T (Humane Education Advocates Reaching Teachers) will lead daily Humane Education lessons, focused on inspiring awe and appreciation for animals and nature. The goal of Humane Education is to help campers to develop reverence and respect for the non-human world, leading ultimately to positive action.

Finally, Campers will spend a significant portion of the week preparing for Friday’s Schoolyard Marketplace, a student-designed craft and farmers’ market. Campers will harvest, price, market and sell produce with the help of Corenna Roozeboom, our school garden coordinator. Students will also produce value-added sustainable and organic crafts and treats to sell alongside produce. Those who visited our Schoolyard Markets in 2012 and 2013 may remember a company founded by two 2nd graders who recycled broken crayons into beautiful Color Creations. Other craft favorites have included homemade bath and beauty products and a line of healthy frozen treats.

To inform their market development, campers will study the history of markets in different cultures and visit some of our city-run farmers’ markets. We invite you to visit the market on Fridays and join in supporting entrepreneurship education and celebrate the hard work of our campers.

Summer Camp is made possible in large part by Camp Out for Kids, an incredible Chicago-based charity committed to providing youth the opportunity to attend a camp of their choice. Camp Out for Kids allows summer camps like ours to provide scholarships to campers who would not otherwise be able to attend. Please consider attending or sponsoring a Camp Out for Kids event to support the great work they do for Chicago’s children.