School Food Institute


Online Learning for School Food 

School Food Institute provides comprehensive online training on the key components of successful scratch-cook operations. The Institute offers a series of video-based online courses on key operational areas of school food, taught by Chef Ann Cooper, internationally recognized author, chef, educator, public speaker, and advocate of healthy food for all children. Participants in School Food Institute courses can access Chef Ann’s extensive school food and culinary expertise through engaging video lectures, regular office hours, and individual feedback on assignments.

School food service teams can enroll in coursework that relates directly to the areas of their program that they’re seeking to change. From procurement and finance to menu development and lunchroom education, this online course series provides in-depth training on how to implement effective change in school food programs.

School Food Institute coursework also equips 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 food in schools across the nation.

School Food Institute Courses

Course topics cover everything necessary to make sustainable change to school food operations. All courses align to USDA Professional Standards learning objectives. Completing the coursework will satisfy annual training requirements for school food service professionals.

  • 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.
  • 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 transition some of your most popular menu items to scratch-cooked incrementally over a 3-year period.
  • School Food Procurement - Learn why procurement is so important in school food, and how to align your procurement practices with the mission and vision of your school meal program.
  • Salad Bars in Schools - Go in-depth into 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
  • Plant Forward - Learn about the health, environmental and financial benefits of eating plant-based proteins. The course also teaches you how to serve more plant forward meals in your school.
  • Sustainable Lunchrooms - Address the ever-increasing importance of reducing environmental impact by providing achievable tactics to run a sustainable school food program.
  • Ingredients for Healthier Kids - This course walks you through some of the most common ingredients that are detrimental to our health and provides guidance for reducing and eliminating these from school menus.

Each course at School Food Institute features:

  • Engaging lectures that let you learn at your own pace
  • Office hours with Chef Ann and her teaching assistant
  • Guest lectures from topic experts in school food
  • Real-world assignments and learning activities
  • Peer learning and networking opportunities
  • Supplemental resources for more exploration 

Certificate Program

School Food Institute recognizes those who are truly committed through its certificate program. A School Food Institute Certificate gives professionals a competitive edge in the school food service industry and equips them with the knowledge, skills, and strategic vision to operate top-notch school meal programs and to make real change to support the health of our children.

Certification Levels and Requirements:

  • Gold - Complete all eight courses
  • Silver - Complete School Food 101 plus four additional courses of your choice
  • Bronze - Complete School Food 101 plus two additional courses of your choice

School Food Institute is now open for enrollment! Find more information and enroll today at

Please contact with any questions. 

School Food Institute in the News

Thank you to the Colorado Health Foundation for their Support!