1579232514 <![CDATA[Blog]]> http://athens.sierrabravo.net/~nguillou/f3/caf/ en Chef Ann Foundation Copyright 2020 2020-01-15T22:47:00+00:00 <![CDATA[One Parent’s Journey Towards Better School Food]]> Emily G http://www.chefannfoundation.org/news-media/the-lunch-line-blog/one-parents-journey-towards-better-school-food/ http://www.chefannfoundation.org/news-media/the-lunch-line-blog/one-parents-journey-towards-better-school-food/#When:22:47:00Z By Lindsey Shifley

As a concerned parent and community member, I’ve worked with my school district to bring fresh food and nutrition education to our students since 2012. I am proud to be a Chef Ann Foundation Parent Advocate for real school food. But why did I become a parent advocate in the first place?

Why & How

I dove into the unknown waters of school food after a family food change deeply impacted the course of my daughter’s learning, attention, and social development. I became passionate about getting more real, whole, and nutrient-dense food into the school lunchroom; I knew that if one child could go from failing to thriving in less than 5 months, then connecting others to the positive message of good food education could make a real difference. 

Schools are the biggest restaurants in our communities, and these “restaurants” directly impact our students’ mind-body/gut-brain connections. We all care about how well our children are learning, but we don’t necessarily focus on how nutrient-dense foods can unlock a student’s mind and support increased emotional wellbeing.

The WHY is easy. The HOW is hard.

  • HOW can one make change as a parent advocate? 
  • HOW can one help get more real school food into the lunchroom? 
  • HOW can one help move the needle from “I don’t eat school food” to “I love school food”?

Here is how the Chef Ann Foundation can help you spark more school food love in your district.

Make It Work

In 2013, I reached out to my school district, Diamond Lake District 76, and became a member of the D76 Wellness Committee. (If a Wellness Committee does not exist for your school district, can you inspire one to form or to meet more regularly? Our group was “paper official” at the time, but not meeting regularly.)

I made connections with staff members and began building trust with those who shared the same passion for improving school food. Together with a school nurse, we applied for the Chef Ann Foundation Project Produce grant in 2015, and were awarded the grant for the 2016 school year. We named our pilot program the “Chef’s Tasting Table” (CTT) to bring more fresh produce into the lunchroom once a month. 

To this day, it continues to be a huge success. Here’s how our CTT program works in a nutshell, and how you can implement something similar in your district:

  • Plan the tasting with a member of your school staff or administration. It is as simple as a citrus tasting to making a smoothie or a dip to pair with cut produce. The hardest part is planning for large quantities of food, especially if you have never done this before.
  • Coordinate with your district’s food service department. They may be able to assist with ordering food for sampling, food preparation, handing out samples or any equipment needs. Just be aware that they have busy schedules and might not be able to add to their already heavy workload! No matter what, it’s good to keep them in the loop and they may have the capacity to get more involved in the future. 
  • Choose seasonal produce and be creative - what new produce can you share with  students in the lunchroom? Start with one tasting and go from there. (Can’t get into the lunchroom? Start with a tasting at a school event to gather momentum and support. Learn and keep growing.)
  • Coordinate with the school lunchroom staff and set up a table in the lunchroom for produce prep. Make sure you have access to electricity for a high powered blender or food processor if necessary. 
  • Gather a few parent volunteers. Having a team of 2-3 is wonderful, but I have done many events alone now that I have gotten the hang of it.
  • Don’t forget to use disposable gloves or any other items necessary to follow food safety guidelines. 
  • Once the students have gone through the lunch line and have begun eating, I take a few minutes to talk to the students about the tasting with some fun food education facts. 
  • I serve each table with help from the other teachers/lunch monitors/volunteers. This saves time and allows the kids to focus on eating, not standing in another line (we had a separate line the first year and it limited eating time). Trays and platters are a must to get lots of tastings out at once. 
  • Consider a tasting successful if 30% love it, 30% don’t, and 30% think it’s just ok. This is how you know you are stretching the students’ food education experience. It’s ok if kids don’t like it—they tried something new and this is a SUCCESS.
  • Provide a recipe (if applicable) to the students and staff so that they can make it at home and spread the food love. Connect the dots! 

Our CTT Program has been so successful that the administration has funded the program every year since 2016. Moreover, starting this year, the Board of Education and administration made the HUGE decision to partner with a neighboring school district, whose “from scratch” central kitchen (run by Quest Foods) now serves our entire district.* It’s been a great way to quickly make the transition to serving healthy, fresh meals until we are ready to become a self-operated scratch cook meal program ourselves. And the students are eating it up: our National School Lunch participation is up by nearly 20%, which means we are most certainly providing more real school food for all!

Key Takeaways 

So, what have we learned? We are still learning! And… Small steps work. Here are some of my most important takeaways from being a parent advocate in my district.

  • School lunchroom culture can change. Volunteer your time when it’s feasible for you.
  • Positive and enthusiastic school lunch staff make a big difference in getting kids to try new things, especially older students.
  • Knowledge is power—pursue and digest the growing body of research and data that supports better nutrition for better health, real food, learning, and emotional development. 
  • Patience, perseverance, and creativity is required because this work is new. Model love for good food, and an adventurous spirit for trying new things.

There are few examples of how to make changes towards more real food in our American school lunchrooms. The Chef Ann Foundation is leading the way with all sorts of resources to help parent advocates and school administrations create their unique map towards more real school food. Anyone can help make change in a school district and CAF is here to help parent advocates every step of the way. Check out their incredible grant offerings, school food training program, and most especially their awesome Parent Advocacy Toolkit.

As parents, we are an essential source of inspiration to help get food education back into our schools. Stick with it. There is no one better than us to spark new school food ideas for our districts. We will continue to experience the challenges and thrills of laying foundations for others to join us in building. Keep it fun. Keep it positive, for this energy is what fuels others to join us. Ride the waves of success and disappointment. Let the negatives go when they come at you. Begin again. Stay grateful. It’s worth it. 

Become a CAF parent advocate with me and join this incredible real school food movement!

*Editor’s note: The Chef Ann Foundation advocates for a self-operated cook-from-scratch program whenever possible, though partnering with a neighboring district is a great way to incorporate scratch-cooked food depending on your district’s options and capabilities.


Lindsey Shifley is a certified Mind Body Eating Coach and Wellness Chef for Compass Hiking and Yoga, a softball pitching coach & food educator in Lake County, Illinois, and a former Super Food Ambassador for Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, which closed its programming in 2018. Check out her blog, The Mullies, here.

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http://www.chefannfoundation.org/news-media/the-lunch-line-blog/one-parents-journey-towards-better-school-food/#disqus_thread 2020-01-15T22:47:00+00:00
<![CDATA[Making Salad Bars Fit Your Operations]]> Emily G http://www.chefannfoundation.org/news-media/the-lunch-line-blog/making-salad-bars-fit-your-operations/ http://www.chefannfoundation.org/news-media/the-lunch-line-blog/making-salad-bars-fit-your-operations/#When:17:26:00Z A look at placing salad bars in alternate locations along the serving line

This blog has been republished with the permission of Salad Bars to Schools.

 The Salad Bars to Schools partnership truly believes that salad bars are the best option for offering a variety of fresh produce for students at school. They are visually appealing and make it easy for school food operators to meet the weekly vegetable subgroup requirements.  Many operators want to add a salad bar to their serving line but are limited in available space to incorporate it before the point of sale (POS) and thus ensure students are taking a meal that qualifies for reimbursement from USDA. Here are some ideas for offering a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables no matter where the salad bar is placed.

  • Reroute the Serving Line: Who says the salad bar has to be the last thing students encounter when building their tray? Why not locate the salad bar before the serving line to encourage students to build their meals around fresh fruits and veggies? Some monitoring for food safety purposes will need to be in place, but concerns about reimbursement are easily eliminated.
  • Move the Point of Sale: When implementing salad bars district-wide a number of years ago, the Nutrition team at Greeley-Evans School District 6 in Colorado found that space was tight in several of the kitchen spaces; however, the cafeteria had ample space to accommodate a salad bar. By adding a cashier stand at the end of the salad bar, students were able to walk a short distance from the serving line to the salad bar to complete their meal.
  • Salad Bar Attendants: Several districts have been successful in partnering with their parent volunteer organizations, or non-foodservice district staff (I.e. Para professionals or Custodians) to provide individuals that monitor the salad bar when it’s not in the line of sight for the cashier or is past the POS. In order to make this successful, training must be provided by the Nutrition Services team to ensure that individuals understand the regulations and food safety considerations.
  • Modifying Existing Equipment: If you have custom-fabricated (non-mobile) serving lines, as a last resort, when there is absolutely no space to place a physical salad bar unit before the POS, try creating the look of a salad bar on the serving line. By using food wells converted for cold service, arrange your fresh fruit and vegetable offerings in pans that allow for students to self-serve a variety of offerings and create a reimbursable tray. Or if you have solid top counter space not being utilized, invest in an insulated or electric countertop salad bar unit with sneeze guards to complete the look and maintain health department compliance.

A good practice is for all cashiers to keep ½ cup servings of fruits and vegetables (whole unwrapped, wrapped or packaged as required by your local health department) at the POS in case a student reaches them without this required component or for those students who notoriously try to skip the salad bar.

Oh, and while you’re at it, don’t forget to give the offerings on your salad bars a fun name!  It’s been proven to raise vegetable consumption when they are given a taste focused name such as “Asian Sesame-glazed Edamame”  For ideas, check out Stanford University’s Edgy Veggies Toolkit.

So get creative – don’t let space be the deciding factor when considering whether or not to include a salad bar in your school serving line.  The increased consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables by students and the ability for them to be able to create a fully reimbursable meal from fresh healthy options is worth the extra effort to rethink your space and retrain the students who, let’s be honest, will have it mastered within two weeks!

Have any other strategies worked for you? Let us know by sending an email to info@saladbars2schools.org.

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<![CDATA[2019: 10 Years in the Making]]> Emily G http://www.chefannfoundation.org/news-media/the-lunch-line-blog/2020-is-around-the-cornerheres-our-biggest-highlights-from-2019/ http://www.chefannfoundation.org/news-media/the-lunch-line-blog/2020-is-around-the-cornerheres-our-biggest-highlights-from-2019/#When:23:36:00Z

2019 has been a big year for the Chef Ann Foundation. We celebrated 10 years of work—10 years of providing tools, resources, and funding to school districts nationwide so they can serve healthier food to kids.

After such a big milestone, we want to take a minute to reflect on this year’s accomplishments and highlight some of the organization’s most notable moments.

Program achievements and milestones

Our programs are the heart and soul of what we do. Through our four major programs, we are able to equip school food professionals, parents, healthy food advocates and more with the tools they need to implement healthier, scratch-cooked food in schools.

Salad Bars to Schools

In 2019, we granted 214 salad bars to schools across the country in partnership with United Fresh Start Foundation and Whole Kids Foundation—bringing our total number of salad bars granted to 5,641!

"The salad bar has made it much easier to meet the meal pattern requirements while still encouraging student choices," said Emily Cena, Salad Bars to Schools grantee and Food Service Director for Ramona Unified School District, CA.

School Food Institute

The nation’s only personal learning platform for school food professionals dedicated to cook from scratch operations launched three new courses: Plant Forward, Ingredients for Healthier Kids, and Sustainable Lunchrooms. We also translated every course into Spanish! Click here for our translator’s take on bridging language barriers in school kitchens.

Get Schools Cooking

We’re entering the final stages of our very first cohort’s 3-year program. These 2016 GSC districts— Bellingham Public Schools (WA), Buford City Schools (GA), Passaic School District ( NJ), and Watertown Public Schools (MA)—have introduced new scratch-cooked recipes, installed salad bars, added new vendors to procure local products, eliminated highly-processed items from their menus, and so much more.

Transitioning to a scratch cooking model takes effort and time. “This isn’t going to happen overnight,” said Bellingham Food Service Director Patrick Durgan when we caught up with him earlier this year. “Since we’ve started making some of these changes, the response has been positive.”

We recently gathered applications for our fourth cohort, to be announced in January 2020.

The Lunch Box

Our free tools and resources were downloaded over 18,000 times in 2019; the Food Cost Projection worksheet is one of our long-standing most popular downloads. We also registered 4,468 new users in 2019—a marked increase, and a good indicator of the rise of scratch cooking in schools.

Real School Food Challenge goes national

In 2019, our fundraising and awareness event went national! Chefs around the country crafted and added a USDA-compliant school meal to their menus during the month of October. Proceeds from each restaurant benefited the Chef Ann Foundation and were matched dollar-for-dollar thanks to our sponsors. We also partnered with StarChefs to debut five recipes at the International Chefs Congress in Brooklyn, NY, where former Rising Star-turned-school chef Mihoko Obunai won first place for her Japanese chicken curry.

Our 2nd annual Real School Food Challenge: Natural Food Industry Edition in Boulder, CO was a success, with competitors from natural food companies like Bobo’s Oat Bars and Noosa Yoghurt. Congratulations to Quinn Snacks CEO & Founder Kristy Lewis on her first place recipe: Italian meatballs with herbed polenta and maple-braised carrots.

Spreading the word on scratch cooking in schools

We had many opportunities to spread the word about scratch cooking in schools, from the AFHK Parent Workshop in Denver, CO to the Healthy Kids Collaborative (hosted by the Culinary Institute of America) in Napa, CA. CAF was also accepted into the Food System 6 accelerator program, where we collaborated with tech and ag leaders in the Bay Area. 

In addition, our founder Chef Ann Cooper spoke about our mission throughout the country, from the Northern Nevada School Wellness Conference to the Association of School Business Officials (ASBO) International Conference & Expo in Maryland.

What’s to come in 2020?

Look out for a blog post from our CEO, Mara Fleishman, coming in January! We’re excited to share with you what the Chef Ann Foundation is up to in 2020.

Thank you for 10 years—here’s to many more!

This year, we celebrated a decade of working with school communities to help them serve healthier food to children across the country. We couldn’t have reached over 3.2 million kids in more than 11,000 schools without your dedication and support. Thank you for sharing in our mission and believing that every child deserves healthy food every day.

We’re excited to continue this work as the school food landscape grows and evolves, and to bring you along for the journey as we make an even bigger impact in the years to come.

Wishing you health, happiness, and an abundant new year,

The Chef Ann Foundation Team

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http://www.chefannfoundation.org/news-media/the-lunch-line-blog/2020-is-around-the-cornerheres-our-biggest-highlights-from-2019/#disqus_thread 2019-12-20T23:36:00+00:00
<![CDATA[Meet Our New School Food Operations Expert]]> Emily G http://www.chefannfoundation.org/news-media/the-lunch-line-blog/meet-our-new-school-food-operations-expert/ http://www.chefannfoundation.org/news-media/the-lunch-line-blog/meet-our-new-school-food-operations-expert/#When:17:13:00Z Jeremy West spent 8 years as Director of Nutrition Services at Greeley-Evans School District 6 in Colorado. Now he's taking his expertise national.

Jeremy West, SNS, recently joined the Chef Ann Foundation after serving as Director of Nutrition Services at Greeley-Evans School District 6 for eight years. We wanted to know what led him to school food, the challenges he’s faced along the way, and why it’s important to feed kids healthy, nutritious food in school.

What inspired you to get involved with school food?

I was working in healthcare at the time, but I had my culinary degree and had worked as a dietary manager for 5-6 years. I wanted to do something that was more preventative, whic really fits with school food.

What I love about school food is that you get the opportunity to work with people in the prime state of their life for learning and developing lifelong habits. It gets harder as you get older. Making the healthy choice easier for students was really attractive; to be able to offer something that hopefully will carry on once students get out of K-12. Something they can draw from for the rest of their life.

Can you tell us about a challenge you faced while working in school food and how you overcame it?

I think a lot of directors face this… the perception of school food versus the reality. That is always a challenge for people to understand; [they] wanted to get upset when we served pizza but they don’t understand it’s healthier pizza, handcrafted with special ingredients.

It’s a challenge to balance what kids like to eat with what, nutritionally, we want them to eat. Without student participation, we can’t buy great food or do great things with our wellness program. It’s about asking: what entrees can we provide to students that they get excited about? How can we help our community understand why the program is important and what we’re trying to accomplish?

Social media was a helpful tool that we could use, as a district food service department, to promote our program and connect with stakeholders. I went to every community group that would have me. I went to these meetings to just really explain why everyone should care about school food, the changes that we’re proposing, and how the community could help and give us feedback—basically, involving stakeholders so they have ownership in that process.

We went to parent groups, held one-on-ones, went to PTA meetings to answer questions and really talk to parents. We also did open house events three times a year so people could come in and see what was going on.

You have known about our organization for a while. What made you interested in working with CAF? What are you most excited about?

Recently, we moved back to our hometown to care for family, and I was looking for some opportunities to stay involved with school food. Understanding the work CAF does, it was attractive to me to continue to help districts make scratch-cooked food, not just in Colorado but really nationwide.

A lot of what Chef Ann Foundation supports through various programs are things that I support. I want to see free food in schools and help school districts go from whatever point they’re at on the continuum and just help them get to the next level. I want to know what’s important for their community and how I can help support that.

I’m diving into the Get Schools Cooking 2016 cohort and it’s exciting to learn about the districts, the changes they’ve been able to make, and the obstacles they’re facing. Just working with them as a mentor to help problem solve that so they can continue their journeys.

Why is school food important?

To me, school food is really important because we support learning. Cafeteria staff are really the only people that see every student every day. Whether we’re feeding them or not, they’re coming to our cafeteria. School food staff are really in a position to be not just that friendly face, but also that person offering something that meets a basic need. Hunger isn’t always evident.

What’s the biggest piece of advice you would give to a school looking to do more scratch cooking?

When working as Assistant Director of Student Nutrition Services in Colorado Springs (prior to Greeley), I knew what I wanted to accomplish, but I wasn’t quite sure how to get there. It’s not a sign of weakness to reach out to organizations like CAF or others in your state and just ask for help.

I think some of the other things you can do is go visit other districts that cook from scratch. Having an assessment myself was so helpful for me to have outside eyes looking from top to bottom—finances, commodities, staffing—that third party perspective. That really helped us go from zero to sixty really quick because it gave me a game plan.

Don’t be afraid to reach out and don’t be afraid to fail. We tried making mac and cheese from scratch and it turned out neon green. I took it off the menu for a year and we redeveloped the recipe and put it back on. I told my staff, “We’re going to mess up, figure out what happens, fix it and move on. Just because that didn’t work doesn’t mean we’re going to go back to boxed mac and cheese.” Give staff permission to fail with the intent to learn from it and make it better.

There’s also so many examples now of districts doing scratch cooking, so there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Find out what’s working.

I recommend starting out by taking School Food 101 (a School Food Institute course). I wish I would have had School Food 101 years ago because there’s so many people that just don’t understand the basics of running a child nutrition program, more so principals and new staff. I think that course is a great tool to understand school food, so those adversaries can become your advocates.

The Chef Ann Foundation is excited to welcome Jeremy to the team, and look forward to his future work with districts just like yours!

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<![CDATA[Featured Salad Bar Program: El Monte City School District]]> Emily G http://www.chefannfoundation.org/news-media/the-lunch-line-blog/featured-salad-bar-program-el-monte-city-school-district/ http://www.chefannfoundation.org/news-media/the-lunch-line-blog/featured-salad-bar-program-el-monte-city-school-district/#When:18:38:00Z This blog has been republished with the permission of Salad Bars to Schools.

We recently caught up with Robert Lewis, Food Service Director for El Monte City School District in California. Lewis applied for the Salad Bars to Schools grant in 2017, and this is the second year that all 14 schools have used the bars. Here, he shares some insights about operating his district's salad bar program.

District Preparation

How did you prepare your district to receive and begin implementing salad bars? 

Before we received our salad bars, we trained all of our employees on appropriate stocking protocols, how to cut up fresh fruit and vegetables, and the overall appearance of the salad bar. 

Did your staff need additional support? 

No, at El Monte City Schools, our staff are all trained cooks with ServSafe certifications. We did allot three additional labor hours for each one of the schools to fully incorporate the salad bars. This necessitated a new position at each site, ultimately creating 14 new jobs within our community. 

How did you prepare your students for their first day using the salad bar? 

Principals took on the responsibility of talking to students about how to go through the salad bar line. They explained how the salad bar is not a fast process, students should take their time. They can choose what they want but they need to be sure to eat what they choose. Every one of our schools also did a mock walkthrough with the salad bars before the full implementation day to get students and teachers used to the flow. 

Overcoming Challenges

Do you have any advice for new Salad Bar recipients on how to manage excess food waste? 

My advice is to stock the salad bar a lot at the beginning of the week with 8 or 9 choices, then you use the leftovers as the week goes on so that there are no leftovers for the weekend. Throughout the week we monitor what kids like and don’t like, to see what's leftover and take that into consideration for future orders. I also rely on my production records to manage waste and track popular options.

Did you experience increased food costs? If so how did it impact your program?

Running our salad bar program has only temporarily increased our overall food cost. We are able to get most of our fresh produce through our USDA Commodity Dollars, which helps us save money. Knowing how to rework our commodity dollars is crucial. In January, I will be shifting our percentages away from spending those dollars on frozen fruits and vegetables to fresh options. Our program is really rocking now, so I will be putting more of my USDA Commodity Dollars towards fresh items for the salad bars.

How has your labor changed, if at all? 

The only change we have had to make is the addition of a few more hours to our delivery driver's workday. We prefer to take the salad bar supplies out separately so that we maximize freshness. Ultimately it hasn’t been a lot of hours but we have had to add a few. 

Are there any other program successes you would like to share?

Some of our schools celebrate when all of their students have perfect attendance. On these academic achievement days, I’ve asked the principals to let me plan the food, and make it a special lunch. We will usually have a big outdoor barbeque and I get out the salad bar as a feature for the special day. It’s a great way to work with the principals to get kids interested in eating healthy. On these days we see great participation, usually around 97 percent! 

It's also been amazing to see the little kids in kindergarten come through the salad bar. They say it's just like when they go out to eat, like going out to a restaurant. Overall, we have seen our participation increase and kids are eating healthy, so it’s really a win-win situation all around! 

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http://www.chefannfoundation.org/news-media/the-lunch-line-blog/featured-salad-bar-program-el-monte-city-school-district/#disqus_thread 2019-11-04T18:38:00+00:00
<![CDATA[Q&A with Chef Mihoko Obunai]]> Emily G http://www.chefannfoundation.org/news-media/the-lunch-line-blog/qa-with-chef-mihoko-obunai/ http://www.chefannfoundation.org/news-media/the-lunch-line-blog/qa-with-chef-mihoko-obunai/#When:02:54:00Z As a school chef in our first national Real School Food Challenge, Chef Mihoko Obunai has a unique take on what makes good restaurant cuisine and good food in school. Learn how she became the head of Midtown International School's culinary program and took on the Challenge with her Japanese curry.

UPDATE: Chef Mihoko competed as a finalist and WON the first ever Real School Food Challenge: National Restaurant Edition on Monday, October 28th as part of StarChefs 14th Annual International Congress. Check out our Press Center to learn more about the competition!

What inspired you to get involved with school food?

My career has been as a professional chef, working in fine dining restaurants and casual restaurants. Being a chef and a woman in the kitchen, it’s a very tough job. I really enjoyed being in the restaurant business, but I felt like I didn’t want to just feed people who came to the restaurant, worry about my revenues and sales and food critics and if I could get a good review. 

It wasn’t until my children told me their school should provide better food that I went one day and really, I was kind of shocked. Students were grabbing trays, drinking chocolate milk and dumping everything in the garbage can. I thought, maybe if I can be a school chef, I can start something where people are going to respect me and what I do. I wanted to be more involved in something for the future. 

What about the Real School Food Challenge sparked your interest?

I go to StarChefs International Congress every year. I spent time in NYC for culinary school and working in different restaurants, so I always like going back to New York because I feel like I’m going back to my second hometown.

This year, I got an email from StarChefs that they were hosting the Chef Ann Foundation’s National Real School Food Challenge this year, and I thought, This must be a dream!

What inspired your Real School Food dish?

It’s a Japanese chicken curry. People say sushi, tempura, teriyaki chicken (when they think of Japanese food). But chicken curry is one of the Japanese traditional homemade foods. Every house makes it, and this is a very traditional school lunch menu item. It’s different from the traditional Indian dish; we kind of adjusted it to the Japanese way.

What’s the biggest challenge about leading the culinary program at Midtown International Schools? What have you implemented since starting there?

I had complaints from kids in the beginning saying, “I want a burger, I want pizza.” For them, things were comfortable and all of a sudden a chef comes and changes everything. I started putting in a salad bar, and I don’t use any kind of preservatives. I make everything from scratch. I told everybody in the school, “You hired me for a reason—because you wanted change.”

I focus on not wasting, and composting and recycling as much as possible within my menu. For example, I started "Meatless Monday" and "Zero Waste Wednesday." On Mondays I serve a vegetable-based menu only and encourage students to eat more local seasonal vegetables. On Wednesdays, I use all parts of animals and produce, like "Pork Carnitas" (I get local pork shoulder and braise it overnight). Lastly, all our utensils, bowls, cups and trays are compostable and earth friendly.

Why should the average person care about school food in America?

School meals are important because it’s like education for children on how to eat, and then when they grow up they know how to cook and eat well. Eating school meals, it’s culture, it’s education—it’s part of your body needing fuel.

What are your hopes for the future of school food?

I think it’s going to take time to change, but I would like to see fresh produce—not canned—and less fried foods like French fries and chicken nuggets. I don’t want to see anything where you can’t see the animal’s shape.

I want more local chefs involved in the school system. Many young chefs want to get famous and be on TV and get better food critiques. But children are the future and we need to support that.

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http://www.chefannfoundation.org/news-media/the-lunch-line-blog/qa-with-chef-mihoko-obunai/#disqus_thread 2019-10-28T02:54:00+00:00
<![CDATA[Dress It Fresh: Plant-Based Dressing Recipes to Inspire Healthy Eating]]> Emily G http://www.chefannfoundation.org/news-media/the-lunch-line-blog/dress-it-fresh-plant-based-dressing-recipes-to-inspire-healthy-eating/ http://www.chefannfoundation.org/news-media/the-lunch-line-blog/dress-it-fresh-plant-based-dressing-recipes-to-inspire-healthy-eating/#When:18:20:00Z

Freshen up your salad bar with plant-based recipes! Just in time for the new school year, these recipes offer great options for scratch-made salad dressings.

Over 30 million children eat school lunch every day, which means that making responsible choices in school food creates a sizeable and lasting impact. Chef Ann Foundation (CAF) recently partnered with Danone North America to create made-from-scratch dressings using Silk milks (soy and coconut milk) that are simple, wholesome, and kid-approved. These recipes offer schools a creative way to integrate plant-based and plant-forward recipes into their school food menus—nourishing for both kids and the planet.

Why Plant-Based?

We crafted these Silk dressing recipes as part of CAF’s Plant Forward Initiative. Plant-based and plant-forward recipes enable schools to make a positive environmental impact through school lunch offerings while teaching students the benefits of making plant-forward meal choices in and out of school. And since schools serve such a large population, serving plant-based and plant-forward meals and recipes is beneficial to both student health and the environment.

Below are the final tried-and-tested recipes:

(Click any recipe name to check it out, or view all dressing recipes by clicking here.)

Each recipe was tested in a school production kitchen, taste-tested and approved by students, and is currently featured on The Lunch Box, complete with nutritional and cost analysis, and USDA meal compliance.

For more information on why plants are healthier for our bodies, our planet, and our school food operations, click here.

Open Call For Entries

Are you using plant-forward or plant-based recipes in your school district’s menu cycle? We want to hear from you!

Every entrant will receive a scholarship to one of two School Food Institute online courses, Plant Forward or Salad Bars in Schools,* which meet USDA Professional Development requirements. Selected responses will be included in a summarized impact story on the More Plants Please section of The Lunch Box website, CAF’s national online database for school food change. 

We hope these recipes will be a great starting point for districts interested in adding more healthy, plant-forward recipes to their school food programs. By using non-dairy milks as a base for scratch-made dressings, we can encourage schools towards the Plant Forward continuum and explore new ways to incorporate more plant-forward recipes for kids.

Many thanks to recipe sponsor Danone North America. As the largest certified B Corp dedicated to mission-based initiatives, Danone’s commitment to making delicious food that is good for you and good for the environment supports ingredient variety in a healthy, scratch-cook school food operation. The Chef Ann Foundation continues to support healthier school food for every child, every day through innovative recipes and forward-thinking initiatives. For access to 350+ free school food recipes, click here.

* = entries will receive a single course scholarship, while supplies last

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http://www.chefannfoundation.org/news-media/the-lunch-line-blog/dress-it-fresh-plant-based-dressing-recipes-to-inspire-healthy-eating/#disqus_thread 2019-09-28T18:20:00+00:00
<![CDATA[NEW! Spanish Subtitles for School Food Institute Courses]]> Emily G http://www.chefannfoundation.org/news-media/the-lunch-line-blog/new-spanish-subtitles-for-school-food-institute-courses/ http://www.chefannfoundation.org/news-media/the-lunch-line-blog/new-spanish-subtitles-for-school-food-institute-courses/#When:19:04:00Z Spanish translations for all SFI courses open new doors for learning

The School Food Institute (SFI) is excited to launch Spanish subtitles for all online courses. When we began developing SFI in 2017, we knew we wanted to offer Spanish options—and they’re finally here! Thank you to The Colorado Health Foundation for making this timely initiative possible.

Why Spanish?

As of 2015, the United States is now home to the largest Spanish-speaking population outside of Mexico. Because Spanish is also the second most commonly spoken language in the US, it is crucial that SFI courses are accessible to audiences of varying Spanish and English fluencies. Spanish subtitles will help to bridge language gaps in schools, lunchrooms and kitchens by providing a resource that meets the needs of Spanish speakers, English speakers and everyone in between.

Making the transition to scratch cooking is a process - one that comes with highs and lows. By making the operational content covered in SFI courses accessible to more people, schools will have fewer barriers for making the shift from heat-and-serve meals to scratch cooking. We hope that Spanish translations will facilitate clearer communication and deeper discussions between school food service professionals, school administrators, parents and other community members. Spanish translations for SFI courses are a crucial step towards healthier school meals. 

How It Works

Students can easily toggle between English and Spanish subtitles while watching lectures. A full Spanish transcript is also available within each video.

The ability to switch between Spanish and English benefit all audiences: students can take the courses in their native language while also learning useful new terms and phrases in another language. To learn more about the impact of these new subtitles, head over to The Lunch Line to read a blog post from our translator, Daniela Ochoa Gonzalez.

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http://www.chefannfoundation.org/news-media/the-lunch-line-blog/new-spanish-subtitles-for-school-food-institute-courses/#disqus_thread 2019-09-13T19:04:00+00:00
<![CDATA[Make Big Changes to the School Food in Your District]]> Emily G http://www.chefannfoundation.org/news-media/the-lunch-line-blog/make-big-changes-to-the-school-food-in-your-district/ http://www.chefannfoundation.org/news-media/the-lunch-line-blog/make-big-changes-to-the-school-food-in-your-district/#When:21:49:00Z How one grant program can support where you are, and where you want to go

By Georgina Rupp

To celebrate the 2019 Get Schools Cooking grant application opening, we spoke with Pamela Lee (Ocean View School District Director 2014-2019) about her experience as part of the 2017 cohort. We’re accepting grant applications until October 28th—click here for more info.

“Support is always just an email away,” says Pamela Lee, former Director of Nutrition Services at Ocean View School District in California.

Our most in-depth program, Get Schools Cooking (GSC) provides school districts with the operational knowledge to transition from a heat and serve or processed models to scratch cooking. Through GSC, food service teams are guided through a three-year program customized to meet the district’s current needs and goals for the future.

For Lee, GSC offered the support she needed to start implementing healthier food at Ocean View.  “I really needed guidance and direction, and they got me going,” she explained.

The Beginning

Lee began following Chef Ann’s work in Berkeley in the early 2000s, so she knew GSC would be a good fit. Lee worked with Ocean View School District for two years before partnering with the Chef Ann Foundation, and found that GSC was crucial for implementing organization systems into the Nutrition Services department.

“[GSC] really helped me get some systems down,” Lee said, referencing spreadsheets that tracked income, revenue expenses, and meals per labor hour.

These tools were really eye-opening for Lee. “Looking at our costs to see what we’re bringing in and seeing how we can close gaps or [cut] back on expenses—this piece was crucial.”

On-site Visit & Key Improvements

After a kick-off workshop in Boulder, the GSC program starts with an on-site assessment of districts’ current meal programs to better understand each district’s facilities and current processes.

“I was a little nervous,” Lee admitted. “There were a lot of things that they were asking me that I didn’t really know the answers to…  But that’s how they figure out what to focus on and what to improve, because they are so thorough.”

Inventory, a large lift for any district, was identified as a key area for support for Ocean View.

“I would take inventory because I knew that we should be taking it, but I wasn't doing anything with that number,” Lee explained. “During the program, I took that figure and input it into a spreadsheet to see how many dollars we had caught up in revenue each month. We worked to spend that down.” The value of inventory management and financial tracking tools supported Lee and her goal to get the district’s food service budget in the black—no easy task!

Additional efforts focused on reducing waste, increasing breakfast participation, and rebalancing staff load. The district was also able to use their Systems Assistance Grant funds from the program to purchase new service lines, food processors and milk coolers. The service lines have allowed the district to keep food at the proper temperature while at the same time making it more attractive and appealing for students. In addition, Ocean View has been able to purchase more whole, raw vegetables without increasing staff time due to the efficiencies of the new food processors. The milk coolers have also increased efficiencies by decreasing the number of milk deliveries needed.

The program and deep dive into her staffing structure allowed Lee to see that the district could switch to reusable trays. Previously, the kitchen staff had often relied on styrofoam trays when the team was down a person, but Lee realized the staff still had enough time to use the reusable trays and wash them.

For the Future

For those considering GSC, Lee’s advice is simple: Be transparent.

“It’s a very big job being a Nutrition Services Director,” Lee noted. “But Get Schools Cooking will find things that need to be fixed and give you the tools and strategies to help you fix them. They’re there to help you and come up with a plan.”

Get Schools Cooking is currently accepting applications for our 2019 cohort! Click here to read more about the application process and program details. We’re also hosting a free informational webinar on September 12th—click here to learn more and register.


Georgina Rupp is a freelance writer based in Denver, Colorado. Inspired to pursue writing by her appreciation for the community that gathers around good food, she comes to the Chef Ann team after three years teaching in public education. When she wasn't in the classroom, she spent her afternoons in the cafeteria kitchen alongside students who gained joy and inspiration from cooking nutritious meals. Georgina received her B.A. in Writing from Johns Hopkins University.

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http://www.chefannfoundation.org/news-media/the-lunch-line-blog/make-big-changes-to-the-school-food-in-your-district/#disqus_thread 2019-09-09T21:49:00+00:00
<![CDATA[We’re hiring!]]> Emily G http://www.chefannfoundation.org/news-media/the-lunch-line-blog/were-hiring/ http://www.chefannfoundation.org/news-media/the-lunch-line-blog/were-hiring/#When:16:25:00Z

The Chef Ann Foundation is looking for a Director of Development & Strategic Partnerships to join our team of dedicated professionals.

Learn more and apply by clicking on the following link:

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http://www.chefannfoundation.org/news-media/the-lunch-line-blog/were-hiring/#disqus_thread 2019-09-02T16:25:00+00:00