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Student art project finds ironic beauty in unappetizing CPS school lunches

Chicago Sun-Times Education This Week
Education This Week is our weekly recap of the biggest news in education affecting the Chicago area, Illinois, the region and the nation. Today’s edition was written by Nader Issa, the Sun-Times’ education beat reporter. Follow him on Twitter here.

We’ve all heard the complaints: They’re not fresh enough, they’re unappetizing, the selection is small, they’re too hot or too cold.
School lunches have been the target of complaints for a long time at Chicago Public Schools and other districts. And we’ve seen pictures of some terrible food over the years.
But if you look at a recent food photo project done by a few Phillips Academy students with their teacher, “gross” might not be the first thought that comes to mind.
They took the age-old grip and added a twist: Let’s take crappy meals and turn them into beautiful photos rather than the cellphone snapshots we usually see.
“From an artistic standpoint, we kind of want to trick the viewer with that happy look,” William Hendrickson, a teacher at Phillips, told me. “Because when they keep looking and notice that lunch is just a hot dog and cucumber slices, it’s a little different than if it was a poorly lit cell phone picture.”
Some of the photos are plain sad once you get past the bright colors and high definition. The food doesn’t look great and there’s not much of it. Others aren’t so bad. And one of the students who worked on the project, Neenah Brown, said the photos in some cases mask the problems, comparing them to fast food commercials that look infinitely better than reality.
You can check out those pictures and this photo crew’s thoughts below, along with a preview of this week’s Chicago Teachers Union election with my WBEZ colleague Sarah Karp, and more.
Until next week,
Nader Issa, Sun-Times education reporter
Got a question you’d like me to look into? Respond to this email or send an email to and your question may be answered in an upcoming newsletter!
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