Chef Ann Cooper founded the Chef Ann Foundation with the vision of enabling schools to provide children access to nutritious food daily. The organization strives to help schools alleviate kids’ hunger and improve nutrition by revamping their daily meal programs to include fresh, healthy nourishment. Chef Ann Foundation also offers an online resource, The Lunch Box, as a means to support schools in improving their food programs.
Food Tank had the opportunity to speak with Emily Miller at Chef Ann Foundation.
Food Tank (FT): How do you contribute to creating a better food system?
Emily Miller (EM): Chef Ann Foundation (CAF) believes that if we take care of our children’s nutrition today, they will take care of the food system tomorrow. The kindergarteners of today’s world will grow to be the farmers, policy makers, and consumers of the future. But for now, while they’re still young, and we’re still filling their lunch trays, we have a singular opportunity. We can teach our kids the connection between their food, their health, and their planet. We can encourage them to nourish their bodies while being stewards of the land that feeds them.
And where best to teach them these lessons? School, of course. CAF offers the technical support, grants, and resources schools need to transform their lunchrooms into places of learning, where children have access to fresh, scratch-cooked food every single day. By helping schools instill healthy eating habits to last a lifetime, we contribute to a healthier food system.
FT: What is a project, program, or result you are most proud of?
EM: September 2014 saw the re-launch of The Lunch Box, an in-depth school food resource that has been years in the making. The online web portal provides school food professionals with free tools and operational support to help transition to scratch-cooking and sustainable procurement. The Lunch Box includes menu cycle templates, over 200 U.S. Department of Agriculture compliant, kid-tested recipes, budget-planning guides, fresh food procurement how-to’s, suggestions for marketing school lunch programs and much, much more. Schools now have free access to all the nuts and bolts information they need to provide fresh, healthy meals to children across the country, which has been the vision of Chef Ann Foundation since Chef Ann Cooper founded our organization in 2009. Seeing the re-launch of The Lunch Box this past year has been one of our greatest accomplishments and proudest moments.
FT: What are your goals for 2015 and beyond?
EM: 2015 is a challenging year for school food, with talk in Congress about rolling back school food guidelines that ensure nutritious school meals. Our goal is to demonstrate that schools can successfully transition to healthier food through the following initiatives:
-Donating over 800 salad bar, breakfast, and nutrition education grants to provide equipment and funding to help schools transition to scratch-cooking, fresh food, and healthy students
-Training and educating school food professionals across the country on The Lunch Box tools that will help them purchase, prepare, and serve healthy food within their budget
-Working with three school districts in hands-on sixteen-month assessments to help them create healthy, scratch-cooked school food
-Establishing a new granting program that will help schools transition away from single-serve milk cartons to bulk milk dispensers and reusable cups
FT: In one sentence, what is the most important thing eaters and consumers can do today to support a more sustainable food system?
EM: In every speech Chef Ann gives, she says “Do One Thing!” There are so many things we can do to save the health of our nation’s children and the planet, but the most important is to make healthy, sustainable, whole foods a core value in our lives and those of family’s and community’s.
FT: How can individuals become more involved in your organization?
EM: The best way to help us achieve our goals is to work at the grassroots level to spearhead school food change in your community. We recommend that parents, advocates, and teachers utilize CAF’s Get Involved resources to begin that process and let us know what changes you are making in your school district and at home. We’d love to share your stories and successes.
If you work in school food service and would like to support our organization, we encourage you to visit The Lunch Box where you will find free guides and tools to help you improve your school food program. Be sure to let your colleagues know about The Lunch Box as well!
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Download the 2015 Good Food Org Guide HERE.