School Food Institute Sparks Initiative

Chef Ann Foundation’s School Food Institute helps foster changes toward better food in Wisconsin and Colorado

  • 10 Years
  • November 14, 2018
  • By: Allison Ildefonso
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School Food Institute (SFI) is your front row seat in Chef Ann Cooper’s classroom. SFI offers online courses and in-depth training for food service professionals and child nutrition advocates who want to see real change in school food across the country.

Through her work as Program Officer for the Greater Watertown Community Health Foundation (GWCHF) in Wisconsin, Kim Melcher helps support schools in making healthier choices by implementing policy and systems changes, including environmentally-friendly practices. While GWCHF has done an incredible job serving eight school districts within Dodge and Jefferson Counties since their fall 2015 launch, foundationally, Melcher says, there was something more the organization needed. That’s where SFI came in.

“I thought, [SFI] can only help to enhance and strengthen the work that we’re doing and hopefully fill in the gaps,” says Melcher. “That’s what I really felt that the SFI and Chef Ann resources do—you actually provide those resources and tools.”

Sheila Adams is the Cafeteria Manager and Head Cook for Springfield School District in Springfield, Colorado, a small rural community known for its farms and ranches. She decided to enroll in SFI courses in order to keep up with the “new” in school food and find exciting, scratch-cook recipes for students to try.

Throughout her training, Adams’ favorite course was “Salad Bars in Schools,” which highlights salad bars as a great way to encourage children to eat more fruits and veggies while minimizing waste. She utilizes The Lunch Box, Chef Ann Foundation’s one-stop shop for free tools, resources, and support for growing a scratch cook school food operation. Adams also encouraged her district to implement a fruit and vegetable program.

“It’s given me more confidence,” Adams says. “When I first came [to the district], the kids did not eat fruits and vegetables hardly at all. Because of the program we did three years ago, they learn better and are more awake in the classroom. And they have lots more energy!”

Both Adams and Melcher have taken the knowledge they’ve gained through SFI courses and applied it directly to their work, both in the cafeteria and through programs and grants within different school districts.

“For me, it’s about making healthy the easy choice,” Melcher says. “It really is about being able to empower kids to live the best life they can and be the healthiest they can be.”

School Food Institute launched a brand new course, Sustainable Lunchrooms, on November 13, 2018, with two more coming in December: Plant Forward and Ingredients for Healthier Kids. Click here to learn more and sign up for your pre-sale discount!

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