School Food Institute








What is School Food Institute?

School Food Institute (SFI) is a set of online courses that provide professional development and comprehensive training on the key components of successful scratch-cook operations in schools.

Program Goals

  • Train school food service professionals on the best practices for scratch-cook operations
  • Provide an in-depth professional development opportunity focused on scratch cooking that satisfies annual training requirements for school food service professionals
  • Equip parents, administrators, and school nutrition advocates with practical knowledge about school food operations, history, regulations, policy, and funding that will enable them to be informed advocates for healthier school food

Program Overview

Taught by Chef Ann Cooper - internationally recognized author, chef, educator, public speaker, and advocate of healthy food for all children - SFIoffers a series of video-based online courses covering key operational areas of school food. 

SFI courses include:

  • Engaging lectures that let you learn at your own pace
  • Real-world assignments and learning activities
  • Guest lectures from topic experts in school food
  • Supplemental resources for more exploration
  • Office hours with Chef Ann
  • Optional Certificate Program

Course Offerings:

School Food 101 - Participants will gain foundational knowledge about school food history, regulations, policy, and funding that will support informed advocacy for healthier food in schools.Mission, Vision and Strategic Planning - This course guides participants through the process of planning for systemic, sustainable change in their school meal programs.

Mission, Vision and Strategic Planning - This course guides students through the process of planning for systemic, sustainable change in their school meal programs.

School Food Operational Models - Students will learn about the complicated web of school food operations and how each operational model affects the food on the lunch tray.

School Food Finance - Discusses the revenues and expenses involved in operating a school meal program, some of the fundamental tools required to track your financials throughout the year, and how to develop an annual and multi-year budget for your program.

Recipes and Menu Development - This course discusses why recipes are important for a sustainable scratch-cook model, what makes a good recipe for school food, and what it might look like to incrementally transition some of your most popular menu items to scratch-cooked over a three-year period.

School Food Procurement - Students will learn why procurement is so important in school food, and how to align your procurement practices with the mission and vision of your meal program.

Salad Bars in Schools - Addresses the planning and assessment needed for salad bar implementation, as well as the complex operational issues of recipe development, production records and procurement that are the cornerstone of successful salad bars in schools.

Marketing and Lunchroom Education - Students learn tactics for marketing to students through lunchroom education events.

Sustainable Lunchrooms - Addresses the ever-increasing importance of reducing environmental impact by providing achievable tactics to run a sustainable school food program.

Plant Forward - Covers the health, environmental and financial benefits of eating plant-based proteins. This course also teaches students how to serve more plant forward meals in your school.

Ingredients for Healthier Kids - This course walks participants through some of the most common ingredients that are detrimental to our health and provides guidance for reducing and eliminating these from school menus.

Program Impact

Between SFI’s launch in the fall of 2017 and the start of the 2019-2020 school year, 223 students have enrolled in 939 course seats.

The most valuable thing I learned were the basics of how food service works in schools, and what laws and regulations control how things are made and reported. — SFI Student

The School Food Institute courses have been the backbone to our work as a Foundation to support schools who are transitioning from heat and serve to healthy, freshly prepared school meals.  — SFI Student

How to Enroll

Visit the School Food Institute website to learn more and enroll in courses.

Please contact with any questions.

School Food Institute in the News

Thank you to the Colorado Health Foundation for their Support!