When Chef Ann Cooper first became the executive chef at the renowned Putney Inn in Vermont, she had very different ideas about food. She spent years as a chef for high-end businesses like the Holland American Cruise Lines. What mattered was creating an amazing gustatory experience for adults with refined tastes. Children weren’t her concern.
In the early 1990s, Ann attended a Chef Collaborative conference in Puerto Rico where she joined a small but growing group of chefs in their passion for sustainable food and agriculture. She put that passion into practice when she returned to Vermont. Ann realized that as a chef, her role was pivotal in the system of responsible food sourcing.
In 1997, Chef Ann started research for Bitter Harvest, her book about the hidden dangers in our food systems. When she began learning alarming facts about the ways the U.S. feeds its children, her focus narrowed to childhood nutrition. In 1999, just a year before Bitter Harvest was published, she was asked to be the chef at The Ross School in Long Island. Ann had her doubts. She had never cooked for children and wasn’t eager to address the challenges: primarily palettes trained to love salty, fatty, and sugary food.
Ann’s five years at the Ross School, along with the research she conducted on childhood nutrition during that time, formed her life’s calling. She saw the far-reaching consequences of poor childhood nutrition and she discovered a solution: a sustainable model for schools to transition from pre-packaged, industrially produced food to scratch-cook kitchens with a focus on fresh, real, whole food. She founded Food Family Farming Foundation (F3) to share that solution with schools across the country.
F3’s current project – Tools to Connect Schools to Local Food – focuses on helping schools build relationships with local food producers and incorporating local, nutrient-rich food into school meals. Children don’t just eat at school, they learn how and what to eat at school. Chef Ann made it her life’s mission to make school food a game-changer for children’s health AND the health of the planet.