The Chef Ann Foundation (CAF) is accepting applications for its Get Schools Cooking program. The grant is intended to help schools transition from a heat and serve operation to being able to serve scratch cooked meals made from whole foods.
The program, now in its fifth year, aims to increase knowledge around scratch cooking, assist with implementing operational changes to support scratch cooking, and support districts working towards a scratch cooked meal program centered around fresh, whole foods. The grant is US$250,000.
GSC grant applications are being accepted through September 30, 2022, and any school district in the U.S. can apply, as long as they meet the eligibility requirements. The link to apply can be found here.
CAF will select school districts based on factors including a demonstrated commitment to scratch cooking and need for support, and past cohorts have included up to seven school districts. Grantees will be notified in November 2022.
CAF was founded as a nonprofit in 2009. Through its GSC program, they have reached 241 schools and 75,788 children through. “In general, there’s a perception that scratch cooking is impossible to implement,” Anneliese Tanner, Senior Director of Research & Assessment at CAF tells Food Tank. Tanner argues that it is possible but emphasizes “making this transition is not an overnight process.” Staff need to learn how to scale scratch cooking and produce hundreds of meals served within a 30-to-60-minute window, she explains.
The GSC upcoming cohort will focus on “[helping] districts overcome barriers that arose due to the pandemic, from staffing shortages, to supply chain issues,” Tanner shares. This grant cycle will explore how scratch cooking can have positive impacts through the supply chain and the shift towards more local ingredients.
“Each district is unique, whether it’s their size, or their location, or the food production model and the facilities that they have. And so we take all of their individual traits and situations into account and then focus on those upstream factors that strengthen school food operations,” Tanner tells Food Tank. The program helps guide schools towards becoming self-operated programs through five key areas: foods, finance, facilities, human resources, and marketing.
“When you’re scratch cooking, you have control over the ingredients and more control over what you’re offering,” Tanner says. “You can be more flexible and bring in items that are halal or Kosher, or plan menus that have a vegetarian item every day; scratch cooking makes food more accessible for students.”
Tanner adds that scratch cooking makes it easier for school districts to serve a variety of foods while also incorporating the culturally relevant options. As part of this ongoing work, CAF partnered with the Rocky Mountain Tribal Leadership Council to help schools on the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana transition to serving culturally relevant meals.
The GSC program begins in February 2023 in Bellingham, WA, where the first GSC cohort was held. This will allow food service directors and key staff members from each district to learn directly from those who have already completed the program. Following this introductory session, CAF will conduct an on-site operational assessment for each district and work with the food service directors to create a plan. A US$35,000 systems grant will cover the expense of new equipment, training for staff, and data solutions, while also providing ongoing technical support to put the strategic plan into action.
CAF is also accepting applications for their Healthy School Food Pathway: Pre-Apprenticeship Program and Salad Bars to School grant. In addition to these programs, CAF is engaged with advocacy work surrounding the Child Reauthorization Nutrition Act, the Scratch Cooked Meals for Students Act, and the upcoming White House Conference on Food, Nutrition, Hunger, and Health.
Mara Fleishman, CEO at CAF tells Food Tank that CAF has asked the White House to consider labor during the conference: “Schools reach every community throughout our country and by increasing the federal reimbursement rates, schools can increase the quality of the meals they serve to their students, while at the same time provide better career opportunities to their community members. This can also help school districts attract talent and enhance the value of the school food workforce.”
CAF is hosting a 45-minute virtual webinar about the GSC grant on Wednesday, September 7 at 11:00 AM EDT. Pre-registration is required to attend.
Articles like the one you just read are made possible through the generosity of Food Tank members. Can we please count on you to be part of our growing movement? Become a member today by clicking here.
Photo courtesy of The Chef Ann Foundation