1551335752 <![CDATA[Blog]]> http://athens.sierrabravo.net/~nguillou/f3/caf/ en Chef Ann Foundation Copyright 2018 2018-12-12T16:12:00+00:00 <![CDATA[Creative Marketing Sparks Salad Bar Popularity]]> Emily G http://www.chefannfoundation.org/news-media/the-lunch-line-blog/creative-marketing-sparks-salad-bar-popularity/ http://www.chefannfoundation.org/news-media/the-lunch-line-blog/creative-marketing-sparks-salad-bar-popularity/#When:19:23:00Z  


Kristen Mcguan’s creative spirit shines through the East Grand School District salad bar program where she has been Food Service Director for the past 3 years. Her favorite part about the program is when she sees students take ideas from the bars home. When kale chips and jicama sticks were introduced to the bar, Director Mcguan received calls from parents asking about recipes for these healthy treats, and she admits that due to high demand it can be difficult to keep enough kale on the bar for students.


East Grand School District, Granby CO

Enrollment: 1350 students

Free and Reduced Rate: 38%

Average Daily Participation: 41%


As a K-12 district, East Grand has to take certain measures to be sure that their younger students understand how to use the bar appropriately. On the first day of school each year, the kindergarteners come down to the cafeteria and learn about how to move through the bar and what to take. Next, the students do a dry run through the bar, and then another dry run the next day to be sure that the students are ready to make the most out of their experience. The first and second graders at East Grand also come down on the first day of school for a quick refresher on how to move through the bar efficiently. Director Mcguan says that as a result of this process, the line speed in the lunchroom is the same as before they had a bar.

Along with their quick lines, the food service team at East Grand works hard to keep parents involved in the school lunch program. Director Mcguan says that the superintendent at East Grand, Frank Reeves, does a great job of keeping staff and parents informed. Newsletters were sent out to parents to inform them about the arrival of new bars. But their involvement with the school lunch program and the new salad bars did not stop there.


Along with being the Food Service Director at East Grand School District, Director Mcguan is also part of the district health committee. The committee decided they wanted to involve parents more actively in the school lunch program, so they devised a Picnic with Parents Program coming soon to all schools. As a parent herself, Director Mcguan knows that parents don’t love coming to school events after normal work hours. So, the Picnic with Parents program invites parents to come to East Grand schools during the day for a “picnic lunch” incorporating the salad bar and some physical activity. Parents come at lunchtime, grab a brown bag lunch with their children, head through the salad bar line, then sit and eat at tables decorated with traditional white and red checked tablecloths. The “picnic” is followed by recess-exercise led by the physical education department. Since East Grand is located in the snowy mountains of Colorado, past activities have included things like snowshoeing or snowman building contests.

As for marketing the bars at East Grand School District, Director Mcguan takes a special approach to getting kids and teens excited about what the salad bar has to offer. On special occasions, East Grand provides “holiday bars” that color coordinate with the occasion. On Halloween, the bar is decked with clementines, carrots, and whole grain goldfish. Valentines Day? Strawberries and apples. But the creativity doesn’t stop there. East Grand uses punny bulletin boards in their lunchrooms that incorporate kids characters, such as one board that says “There are a *MINION* and one reasons to love school lunch!” with the popular characters drawn below. Students are encouraged to add a little note of their favorite part of the salad bar onto the board. Director Mcguan’s creativity and passion around each of these ideas has led to great salad bar success in the East Grand School District.

http://www.chefannfoundation.org/news-media/the-lunch-line-blog/creative-marketing-sparks-salad-bar-popularity/#disqus_thread 2019-02-27T19:23:00+00:00
<![CDATA[School Food Institute chosen in acclaimed program]]> Emily G http://www.chefannfoundation.org/news-media/the-lunch-line-blog/school-food-institute-chosen-in-acclaimed-program/ http://www.chefannfoundation.org/news-media/the-lunch-line-blog/school-food-institute-chosen-in-acclaimed-program/#When:01:04:00Z Chef Ann Foundation working with FS6, a food-system focused accelerator program


BOULDER, COLORADO (February 21, 2019) — The Chef Ann Foundation is excited to announce its participation in the Food System 6 (FS6) innovation accelerator, a 16-week program where they will focus on the School Food Institute (SFI) and general CAF mission.

Alongside five other organizations, CAF will work with experts across the food, agriculture, and investment industries to focus on building expertise in business growth, brand development, and the impact investment landscape.

This cohort program combines personalized business and organizational development skills with a broad understanding of the food system. Through their curriculum, FS6 is focused on scaling early-stage changemakers and entrepreneurs who are tackling the major challenges associated with our current model of food production and distribution, in order to build a more regenerative system.

Earlier this month, CEO Mara Fleishman and Director of Online Programs Danielle Eliser flew to California for the first of three in-person sessions in the Bay Area.

“We’re so excited to join the FS6 team,” said Mara Fleishman.”Traditionally, accelerator programs have focused on tech start-ups; using this model to springboard sustainable food and agriculture initiatives is brilliant.”

The School Food Institute (SFI), CAF’s online learning program, is dedicated to scratch-cooking in schools. The online courses leverage Chef Ann’s extensive experience in transitioning school food programs to cook-from-scratch, serving whole, fresh, healthy food to kids. SFI offers a variety of operational subjects, ranging from procurement to salad bars.

The FS6 Program supports 6-10 organizations in each cohort, each of which is selected through a rigorous process that takes into consideration the transformative impact potential, economic viability, and diversity of ideas of applicants. Aside from the sessions, the program includes 16 weeks of 1:1 custom work plan execution and 2-3 years of ongoing executive support.

“The world is in need of a major shift in the food ecosystem - from the systems for production, distribution, and education to the products available in the marketplace,” said Renske Lynde, Co-Founder and CEO of FS6. “The FS6 accelerator exists to provide support infrastructure to the innovators who are leading the charge and transforming the industry for the better. This fourth cohort represents a range of talented, systems-minded trailblazers and we are thrilled to be able to introduce them into our incredible community of partners and supporters.”

More information about the FS6 program and more information about the other members of Cohort 4 can be found at FoodSystem6.org.


Chef Ann Foundation is a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization committed to providing school communities with the tools, training, resources, and funding to help transition their food programs from highly-processed to cook-from-scratch operations. Founded in 2009, the Chef Ann Foundation is celebrating its 10th year of working towards better nutrition for kids. The School Food Institute (SFI) is an online learning platform dedicated to scratch-cook school food, more info at schoolfoodinstitute.org.


Food System 6™ (FS6) is an innovative non-profit based in the San Francisco Bay Area whose mission is to support the world’s most promising entrepreneurs as they transform how we grow, produce and distribute food. FS6 runs a comprehensive accelerator program that includes a wide range of business and organizational support designed to help entrepreneurs accelerate their growth and their impact. FS6 brings these innovators together with the mentors, networks, diverse forms of capital, capacity building, tailored support and technical assistance needed to further prove their concept, build their ability to scale, and maximize their success. FS6 has executed three cohorts with 23 companies, of which 17 are for-profit and 6 are non-profit. Additional information on the current FS6 portfolio can be found here.

http://www.chefannfoundation.org/news-media/the-lunch-line-blog/school-food-institute-chosen-in-acclaimed-program/#disqus_thread 2019-02-21T01:04:00+00:00
<![CDATA[Program Success for Wyoming School District]]> Emily G http://www.chefannfoundation.org/news-media/the-lunch-line-blog/program-success-for-wyoming-school-district/ http://www.chefannfoundation.org/news-media/the-lunch-line-blog/program-success-for-wyoming-school-district/#When:20:17:00Z Salad bar program offers fresh fruit & veggies for students, teachers, and parents alike

By Georgina Rupp  

“You cannot teach a hungry child.”

These were the words that Salad Bars To Schools grantee Dawndrea Daly offered when asked why school food is important. Without hesitation or pause to choose her words, the answer was clear, and we agree.

“In our community,” she added, “this is sometimes the only meal they get. I don’t know if that’s enough, but that is what I believe.”

The Salad Bar To Schools program has been transformative in Guernsey, Wyoming's Platte County School District #2. Daly, the school's former head cook and current Food Service Director, is responsible for the meal program's implementation, which began in March 2018.

Since then, according to Daly, the salad bar has been a huge success, and she’s got plenty of people to back her up.

“Our kids love it!” she exclaimed. While all students at the K-12 school access the new salad bar, it’s the elementary students who truly light up. They surprised Daly with adventurous appetites and willing palettes. Black olives, avocados, and tomatoes are among the most popular salad bar toppings.

Daly and her team have set up the salad bar at the end of the cafeteria next to the milk cooler so that, after getting their hot meal, students can help themselves to fresh fruits and vegetables off the bar.

"They always stop at the salad bar and get what they want,” Daly explained of the students. “They utilize it every day.”

36% of students in Guernsey’s Platte County District qualify for free and reduced lunch, and of those who don’t qualify, only about 25% bring lunches from home. Since moving away from processed food and towards a 90% scratch cook operation, Daly shared, the majority of students eat school lunch.

It’s not only students, though, who are reaping the benefits of this healthy lunch option. Teachers and parents use the salad bar too. Many teachers take advantage of the option to buy a large salad for lunch. In addition, Daly extends regular invitations to parents to join for lunch.

Implementing the salad bar program has been no small feat, with Daily and staff working in additional prep time to wash the fruits and vegetables each day. The results, however, are worth the effort.

Daly’s goal is that every child has a filling lunchtime meal that tastes good. Under her watch, every child gets fed and no child is denied food for having a delinquent account.

The school is fortunate to have a strong relationship with a local church, which donated $2,000 to cover the cost of any unpaid balances.

“It’s a great community,” Daly explained. “The church came to me and offered the donation.”

Now that the program is up and running, Daly wants to do even more. The greatest benefit of offering a salad bar in schools is the increased access to fruits and vegetables for children at meal time, but the work doesn’t stop there.

In May, she will oversee the installation of a geo-dome that will enable students to grow some of the vegetables and herbs they see in the salad bar every day. Looking ahead, Daly also hopes to incorporate gardening knowledge into math and science classes.

Until then, her focus is on sharing her gratitude for the program and spreading the word. “I talk about it constantly,” Daly said, “to share the benefits we’ve seen here to other schools, too.”

Click here to learn more about Salad Bars to Schools and other programs of the Chef Ann Foundation.

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.

http://www.chefannfoundation.org/news-media/the-lunch-line-blog/program-success-for-wyoming-school-district/#disqus_thread 2019-02-19T20:17:00+00:00
<![CDATA[Become a Member Today & Impact Children’s Health for a Lifetime]]> Emily G http://www.chefannfoundation.org/news-media/the-lunch-line-blog/become-a-member-today-impact-childrens-health-for-a-lifetime/ http://www.chefannfoundation.org/news-media/the-lunch-line-blog/become-a-member-today-impact-childrens-health-for-a-lifetime/#When:20:06:00Z


We’re celebrating so many achievements for our 10-year anniversary, and that includes celebrating people dedicated to our mission. We’ve been fortunate to have your support for a decade, and we’ve been able to make some real change in schools. However, our work is needed now more than ever.

We are working to repair a broken system, and it is not a quick fix. This is a continuous uphill battle, both legislatively (did you hear about the recent rollbacks to the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act?) and operationally (like getting buy-in from every level of a school district to invest in making big changes, when it’s far easier to stick with status quo).

Our new membership program will help expand and develop the next 10 years of school food reform. Joining as a member helps us plan for long-term programs, which means we can keep moving the needle forward on school food change.

“We know people are thankful for our work; we get notes and messages all the time about how our work has enabled their child or school to serve and eat fresh, healthier food,” says Mara Fleishman, CEO of the Chef Ann Foundation. “Membership provides an opportunity for our family of advocates to join in monthly to help us reach more schools.”

As thanks for contributing to our mission, we want to share a special curated culinary gift from Chef Ann; we hope you enjoy a few of her favorite things in your own kitchen, and remember the impact you are making on the health of children in our country.

Looking to the future, your membership impacts more than children in school today, but includes every generation thereafter. This membership program supports our future and our children’s future (and includes tools to cook healthy meals with your family for years to come). As always, thank you for fueling the healthy school food movement!

Sign up to become a member today!

http://www.chefannfoundation.org/news-media/the-lunch-line-blog/become-a-member-today-impact-childrens-health-for-a-lifetime/#disqus_thread 2019-02-19T20:06:00+00:00
<![CDATA[Salad Bars: A Review]]> Emily G http://www.chefannfoundation.org/news-media/the-lunch-line-blog/salad-bars-a-review/ http://www.chefannfoundation.org/news-media/the-lunch-line-blog/salad-bars-a-review/#When:16:38:00Z With over 5,000 salad bars granted to schools across the U.S., the Salad Bars to Schools program has been able to help schools incorporate more fresh fruits and veggies into their meal programs. But to better understand the impacts and use of these salad bars we grant, we send every district an evaluation roughly a year after they receive their salad bar(s). And as another year wraps up, we thought, what better time to look back on the successes and challenges of implementing salad bars?

Of the 5418 bars we have granted, we have collected data from 523 districts that have received a total of 3029 bars since 2013. Below are some highlights from these evaluations that demonstrate just how big of an impact salad bars can have.

Of the salad bars represented in this evaluation, 90% are still in use.

87% of the salad bars are used five days a week, meaning students always have access to fresh produce.

20% of reporting districts noted a 1-9% increase in Average Daily Participation due to Salad Bar usage, where 39% of reporting districts saw a 10-19% increase.

84% of districts are sourcing at least 10% of their produce from local vendors

Roughly half of our salad bar respondents have seen a decrease in the amounts of canned fruits and vegetables that they purchased

Not only have salad bars impacted procurement and participation numbers in school districts. They have also helped encourage healthy eating habits among students:


We saw 33% of respondents note that their salad bars encouraged students to try fresh fruits and veggies.

School Districts noted that salad bars increased student access to fresh fruits and veggies by 31.2%

21.14% of districts noted that it provided an opportunity for children to make healthy choices.

With high rates of obesity in the nation’s children, these increases are extremely important when considering our country’s future. The statistics from these evaluations show the larger importance and impact of salad bars, but each evaluation shares the story of a district and the changes they have experienced:

“Students are excited about eating fresh salads that they made themselves and are eating everything on their plate.  Our participation has increased, therefore our revenue has increased as well.”

“Students are now choosing to eat healthier food and now have the opportunity to eat healthy food provided from the school kitchen.”

There are still challenges with implementing successful salad bars in a school district and many respondents noted these in their evaluations. However, most were able to overcome the increased cost of fresh produce, increased labor time prepping produce and other challenges. We always encourage districts to check out The Lunch Box for helpful resources and tools.

If you are interested in a salad bar in your school, please head to our “Get a Salad Bar in your School” page.


http://www.chefannfoundation.org/news-media/the-lunch-line-blog/salad-bars-a-review/#disqus_thread 2019-02-06T16:38:00+00:00
<![CDATA[New Year, New Ways to Use Yogurt]]> Emily G http://www.chefannfoundation.org/news-media/the-lunch-line-blog/new-year-new-ways-to-use-yogurt/ http://www.chefannfoundation.org/news-media/the-lunch-line-blog/new-year-new-ways-to-use-yogurt/#When:16:42:00Z Recipe contest winners featuring bulk yogurt are now on The Lunch Box

Ready for your new favorite healthy ingredient? Creamy and delicious, yogurt is packed with key nutrients to keep students going throughout their busy day. Yogurt is a versatile ingredient that can be used as a healthy replacement to foods such as cream cheese, mayonnaise, and sour cream. Best of all, yogurt can credit to the meat/meat alternate (m/ma) component of the USDA meal pattern.

Last fall, the Chef Ann Foundation and Danone North America (brands like Dannon and Dannon Oikos) teamed up to host a recipe contest featuring yogurt in school food recipes.

We asked school districts across the country to get creative with bulk yogurt, and think outside of smoothies and parfaits. Together with Danone, we selected 12 final winning recipes, ranging from breakfast pizza to chicken salad:

Broccoli Cheddar Soup - Trumansburg Central School District, Trumansburg NY
Chicken Salad with Fruit - Evansville Vanderburg School Corporation, Evansville IN
Curry Turkey Stew - Cherry Creek School District, Denver CO
Maple Peach Muffin - Addison Central School District, Shoreham VT
Potatoes Au Gratin - Cherry Creek School District, Denver CO
Pineapple Chia Pudding - Evanston Township High School, Evanston IL
Summer Squash Lasagna - Apalachee High School, Winder GA
Veggie Wrap - South Bend Community School, South Bend IN
Vegilicious Pasta Salad - Williamsville Central School District, Amherst NY
Very Berry Yogurt Pizza - Coppell Independent School District, Coppell TX
Whey Good White Pizza - Darien Public Schools, Darien CT
Yogurt Chia Composite - Brunswick Central School District, Troy NY

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

Vanessa David, a cafeteria manager for Darien Public Schools in Darien, Connecticut, submitted the winning recipe for Whey Good White Pizza. “I like the challenge of coming up with something new, and I love being creative,” she said.

Ms. David, who has been working in school food for four years, experimented with the yogurt by placing it in a strainer, straining overnight, and using the leftovers to make cheese. She also used the strained liquid whey and water in the pizza dough-making process to resemble sourdough.

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

The prize for each winning school is seven professional development course scholarships to the School Food Institute. These online courses leverage Chef Ann’s extensive experience in transitioning school food programs to cook-from-scratch, serving whole, fresh, healthy food to kids.

We hope these recipes will be a great starting point for schools interested in adding a healthy m/ma component to their meals. By using yogurt as a protein base, we can encourage schools towards the Plant Forward continuum by reducing dependency on meat-based products and exploring new ways to incorporate proteins into a dish.

Many thanks to all the schools who submitted recipes, and thanks to contest 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 strive for healthy food for every child, every day, one (yogurt!) recipe at a time.

http://www.chefannfoundation.org/news-media/the-lunch-line-blog/new-year-new-ways-to-use-yogurt/#disqus_thread 2019-01-28T16:42:00+00:00
<![CDATA[2019 Serves Up Opportunity]]> Emily G http://www.chefannfoundation.org/news-media/the-lunch-line-blog/2019-serves-up-opportunity/ http://www.chefannfoundation.org/news-media/the-lunch-line-blog/2019-serves-up-opportunity/#When:16:18:00Z Our CEO reflects on 2018 and talks about what’s to come in 2019

Happy New Year! (I think I can still say that.)

At the onset, 2019 seems to have a different feel than 2018; the team and I feel more grounded in what we know and settled in what we hope to accomplish. And while the world still feels a bit unstable, it seems we have all come up with our own ways of managing stress and are more rooted in our paths.

As for the Chef Ann Foundation (CAF), this is a big year for us. We are celebrating 10 years of work and taking a closer look at what we want to help schools accomplish over the next 10 years. We are also reflecting on the amazing community and accomplishments  we have shared over the last decade. Our partners, grantees, supporters, advocates, and team members have all contributed through the years to this work, and we want to honor their efforts every step of the way.

As is with every big milestone, I want to take a minute to really reflect on how we got to this point. I have been involved with CAF since 2011; first as a board member, and for the last 6 years, as CEO. The number of people it has taken to get us here is simply staggering. These are people who believe that change can happen—that even if progress is slow, you have to stick with it. Very little happens through one person’s effort, which is why Ann and I are so grateful to this tribe of believers and changemakers. It is the collective that creates change.

One of the most exciting things about 2019 is that we have dedicated the extra funding and time to increase the reach and efficiency of our tools, resources, and grants to help schools serve healthier food. Here are just a few of the things our team is excited about:

TheLunchBox.org Next Gen:

Thanks to the Colorado Health Foundation (CHF), CAF has an opportunity to revamp and expand one of the nation’s most relied-upon tools for implementing scratch cooking in schools. With tools that target food, finance, facilities, human resources, and marketing, CAF is proud to have over 16,715 registered school users that depend on this site to create change. CAF will use new CHF funds to work with food service operators from across the country to understand what additional resources are needed and how the site can be modified to help new users explore change. We expect the launch of the new Lunch Box by April 2020.

School Food Institute - New Courses and Spanish Translation:

We are excited that the new year has also brought the launch of three new courses, Plant Forward, Sustainable Lunchrooms, and Ingredients for Healthier Kids. These courses really give school food workers the kind of operational knowledge they need to push their school programs to the next level. Remember that all courses are taught by Chef Ann, who grades and comments on homework and holds office hours to support course learnings. We’re also adding Spanish translations to all of our SFI courses.  This work was inspired by feedback from districts to better support their Spanish-speaking employees with professional development resources in their primary language.

Get Schools Cooking - Results and our 4th Cohort:

I can’t believe we’re opening our 4th cohort for the Get Schools Cooking grant in August 2019. This will come on the heel of the release of our evaluation report from 2016’s cohort. It will be really exciting to see the changes these districts have been able to make through a variety of programs and operational choices.

New Team Members:

We are so excited to welcome Leslie Stafford to the team. As our new Director of Finance and Human Resources, Leslie is a dream team member for CAF. She recently left her position as Chief Operating Officer at Boulder Valley School District (BVSD), where she had been an advocate for a cook-from-scratch school food program. Leslie oversaw the School Food Project at BVSD and has a unique understanding of what it takes to move a district to cook-from-scratch, especially in finance and HR. She will be a great advocate for other district leaders that are curious about what it takes to make the transition.

Membership Program:

We are launching a brand new membership program in 2019! For $25 a month, you can support long-term, positive change to children’s health—and receive a culinary gift curated by Chef Ann as a thank-you. Proceeds from this membership program will allow the Foundation to continue providing tools, resources, grants, and funding that schools need to feed their students healthy, scratch-cooked food.

We are determined, we are ready, and we are pumped. 2019, here we go!

Mara Fleishman

http://www.chefannfoundation.org/news-media/the-lunch-line-blog/2019-serves-up-opportunity/#disqus_thread 2019-01-28T16:18:00+00:00
<![CDATA[Healthy Eating, Healthy Habits]]> Emily G http://www.chefannfoundation.org/news-media/the-lunch-line-blog/healthy-eating-healthy-habits/ http://www.chefannfoundation.org/news-media/the-lunch-line-blog/healthy-eating-healthy-habits/#When:00:10:00Z Learn how this Minnesota district transformed school food through the School Food Support Initiative program

Child nutrition has become a top priority at Fridley Public Schools in Minnesota. In 2017, Fridley was selected as a program recipient for Chef Ann Foundation’s School Food Support Initiative (SFSI) (now, Get Schools Cooking) program based on their commitment to improving the quality and nutrition of school food served throughout the district.

This initiative was spearheaded by Mary Mueller, Director of Nutritional Services, who has been pushing the importance of school food and student wellness since she took on her role seven years ago.

“Mary’s passionate about the work that she does, and has moved us forward in lots of [ways],” says Matt Hammer, Director of Finance.

Director Mueller notes that when you work in school food service, it’s not just children you’re communicating to. “There are so many different layers to school food service,” Director Mueller says. “It’s our community, our parents, our staff. We’re constantly educating everyone about what we do and why we do it, what our challenges are.”

After joining the team at Fridley in 2012, Director Mueller became involved with School Food FOCUS, an initiative of the National Good Food Network aimed at improving the supply chain for healthier school food. Mueller was invited to attend a two-day school food conference in 2015, where she met our very own Chef Ann Cooper. After meeting Chef Ann and learning about the SFSI program, Director Mueller put all her efforts into applying and gaining the support needed to transform the school food in her district.

A Step in the Right Direction

Director Mueller and Director Hammer hoped to be chosen for the program to get an extra “boost”—“to not only look at what we’d been doing to see if we’re on the right track, but also get that lense of expertise that Chef Ann provides,” Director Hammer says. Fridley Public Schools was awarded the SFSI grant and became part of the 2017 cohort. According to Director Hammer, CAF was able to launch Fridley to the next level to further develop their long term plans for more fresh, whole school food.

And the program could not have come at a better time for Fridley. Prior to Director Mueller applying, district officials were already looking to renovate their kitchen facilities and had plans for major maintenance on equipment that was at least 50 years old. “We’d been looking at scratch cooking and all those pieces, but how do you actually get that delivered in your schools in an operation that’s sustainable?” Director Hammer questioned. The answer would come through CAF’s assessment, which offered a lense through which Director Hammer and the rest of the district could see things from a fresh yet comprehensive  perspective.

At the start of the program, the district’s operational model involved a combination of simple scratch cooking and heat-and-serve, requiring some but not all the equipment it takes to successfully execute a scratch-cook model. Not only did the district have to think about equipment and their facilities but the program also demonstrated how items like financial tracking and standard operating procedures could help them further enhance their program. But not all of this was easy. “Sometimes it’s hard work to do what’s right for kids instead of just doing the easy thing. That was the nice thing about the grant,” Mueller says. “The Chef Ann Foundation made us realize that there are steps to perfecting this and it’s going to take a while, so [we shouldn’t] beat ourselves up.”

Not only did the program guide the district in transitioning to a scratch cook operation, it also forced her and her team to ask important Why questions. Some of those questions included: Why are we serving this? Why do we buy this particular item? Why do we do production like this instead of like this? “We evaluate from lots of different standpoints now instead of, ‘What’s the most popular, current frozen pizza we should serve?’” For Director Mueller, working through all these steps while asking these questions were a powerful and valuable combination.

Better Nutrition, Better Learning Habits

According to the American Psychological Association, establishing healthy eating habits early in your child’s life can lead to good behavior as they move into adulthood. And at Fridley this is of the utmost importance.

“One of our top priorities here at Fridley is to make sure we’re improving academic achievement and nutrition,” Director Hammer says. “Making sure kids are starting out in a good spot here is one of the key pieces to [meeting] those goals.”

Since being accepted into the SFSI program, Fridley has implemented universal breakfast and second chance breakfast to help ensure students have “that foundational block of not being hungry when trying to learn,” says Director Hammer. “It’s that whole-student outlook: what are the pieces that need to be in place for students to be successful in the classroom? Proper nutrition’s a huge piece of that.”

Since the district started offering new opportunities for students to fill up on nutritious food, teachers have attested to an improvement in student engagement and concentration, especially at the elementary levels.

On top of that, Director Mueller was able to take on the challenge of doing things differently, learning the ins and outs of school food reform in her district and continuously improving school nutrition.

“It really pushed us to make changes that benefit kids; to continue to do that every single day,” Director Mueller says of the SFSI grant. “We have a different mindset now when we evaluate products or roll out a recipe.” One of the items the district looks for now is whether a product contains what the Life Time Foundation refers to as the Harmful 7 (Trans Fats & Hydrogenated Oils, High-Fructose Corn Syrup, Hormones & Antibiotics, Processed & Artificial Sweeteners, Artificial Colors & Flavors, Artificial Preservatives, Bleached Flour). As a partner of SFSI, Life Time Foundation’s support helps districts remove these ingredients alongside their move to increased scratch cooking.

Progress and Hope for the Future

The most important part of this work, Director Mueller says, is the long-term benefits that Fridley students reap by having access to healthy food and nutrition education—a new understanding of where food comes from and what real food is. Because 65 percent of the district’s student population is free and reduced, school lunch is often the only fresh, scratch-cooked food many of these children receive in a day. This makes marketing and education doubly important.

“Kids really need to know what real food tastes like and that fresh is best,” Director Mueller says. “Now our kids realize that frozen vegetables are not the norm; roasted, fresh vegetables are the norm.”

Since 2017, Director Mueller and her team have also implemented taste testings, from which they fine-tune recipes and receive feedback through sampling with the kids.

While the district has made great progress, they still have their sights set on more changes. Right now, they are working with local partners and chefs to help them develop more main dish recipes. “Our focus in 2019 is entrees and more fresh, from-scratch entrees.”

Fridley’s story is just one example of how hard work and determination, combined with the right resources and funding, can truly transform students’ lives. For the kids at Fridley Public Schools, this means more fresh, whole, scratch-cooked food, nutrition education, and excitement around eating healthy.

To learn more about our School Food Support Initiative (Get Schools Cooking) program, click here. The application will re-open in August/September of this year—stay connected on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and be the first to find out!

http://www.chefannfoundation.org/news-media/the-lunch-line-blog/healthy-eating-healthy-habits/#disqus_thread 2019-01-24T00:10:00+00:00
<![CDATA[Get Ready to Learn with New SFI Courses]]> Emily G http://www.chefannfoundation.org/news-media/the-lunch-line-blog/get-ready-to-learn-with-new-sfi-courses/ http://www.chefannfoundation.org/news-media/the-lunch-line-blog/get-ready-to-learn-with-new-sfi-courses/#When:16:26:00Z 3 new courses explore important trends in school food

Environmental sustainability. Sustainable food systems. Plant-based eating. You’ve probably heard these key concepts in the news and popular media. These trends are not only prominent in the mainstream food world, but are also important topics for school food service departments.

To help schools push the needle on healthy and sustainable food, Chef Ann Foundation is thrilled to present our three most interesting and relevant courses yet. Taken individually or as a complementary set, Sustainable Lunchrooms, Plant Forward, and Ingredients for Healthier Kids provide schools with the knowledge, skills, and resources to start serving plant-forward, planet-friendly, and highly nutritious foods.

Schools around the country are getting on board by serving local produce, creating farm-to-school programs, offering plant-forward and vegan meals, and even growing food in their own gardens. (You can read more about how some schools are changing the way they feed their students in a report by Friends of the Earth, Scaling Up Healthy, Climate-Friendly School Food: Strategies for Success.)

Check out our new courses and join the movement:

Sustainable Lunchrooms

Environmental sustainability involves acknowledging the important connection between educational development and sustainable learning environments. Food service departments have many options for increasing sustainability and reducing environmental impact in schools. In this course, Chef Ann presents changes that can be made in procurement and front and back of house operations, and how to use marketing to get your whole school community invested in making these important changes. Topics include: food waste management, local procurement, ingredients with low environmental impact, and how to identify the best equipment to meet your needs and reduce energy use.

Plant Forward

According to the Food Revolution Network, plant-based eating isn’t just a trend but a habit that’s here to stay. Many schools have started offering plant-based and vegan options to meet the increased desire for these healthy meals and to expose kids to new ways of eating. Rather than an all-or-nothing approach, Chef Ann suggests reducing consumption of animal proteins. Choosing beans/legumes, tofu, or nuts/seeds several times a week can have major health benefits. In addition to addressing the health benefits of plant-based meals, the Plant Forward course reveals some of the environmental and financial benefits of cutting back on meats and dairy.

Ingredients for Healthier Kids

We all want kids to eat as healthy as possible. That’s why you’re reading this and supporting school food reform! But how do we know what we should feed students – and ourselves for that matter? And how can schools choose the best ingredients while staying within their limited budgets? For this course, we partnered with Dr. Julia Nordgren, M.D. As a trained chef and Pediatric Lipid and Obesity Specialist, Dr. Nordgren works with kids and their families to help them choose healthy foods for their growing bodies. She brings this expertise to the Ingredients for Healthier Kids course to discuss how different ingredients affect our bodies and brains. Dr. Nordgren also makes the connection between good nutrition and academic success. To complement Dr. Nordgren’s nutritional insight, Chef Ann teaches students how to implement better nutrition in their kitchens and schools.

To learn more about these courses and other offerings, head over to the School Food Institute’s Course Catalog. We hope to see you in the courses!

http://www.chefannfoundation.org/news-media/the-lunch-line-blog/get-ready-to-learn-with-new-sfi-courses/#disqus_thread 2019-01-16T16:26:00+00:00
<![CDATA[Why Real Food Matters to Me]]> Emily G http://www.chefannfoundation.org/news-media/the-lunch-line-blog/why-real-food-matters-to-me/ http://www.chefannfoundation.org/news-media/the-lunch-line-blog/why-real-food-matters-to-me/#When:16:12:00Z Writer and blogger Georgina Rupp on the importance of Real Food in today's world

Are you passionate about real food in schools? If so, you can help by supporting the Chef Ann Foundation—click here!

By Georgina Rupp

“Couscous” was one of my earliest words, or so I am told. While I cannot confirm this from memory, I certainly believe it to be true. My maternal grandmother is French, and as such I grew up eating French food made with American ingredients and health-conscious portions of butter. I loved couscous growing up and still do. My early fondness for this dish is why I know Real Food has always mattered to me.

I’ve known Real Food to be important for as long as I can remember and certainly long before I knew anything about how to label it or the mission behind it. It was while teaching middle schoolers how to cook in their public school’s kitchen that my understanding of Real Food transformed from an important concept into a social justice issue.

Looking back, Real Food––both its benefits and its shortcomings––informed each stage of my life. By now, I know of nutritious food’s benefits to strengthen the immune system, improve brain functioning, and deter health issues. At the beginning, though, real food for me was simply synonymous with family.

* * *

Growing up, my family’s best moments were spent in the kitchen. I learned to cook from my mom, who learned her techniques from her mother; cook an omelet over medium heat so it won’t stick to your pan, buy dried flageolet beans and soak them overnight, etc. I am not alone in this experience.

Everyone participated in cooking in some way. My dad would take my sister and me to the store to contemplate the pasta aisle, which often ended in a rock-paper-scissors vote between corkscrews or bowties (the Italian names were of no importance then). Later, my stepmother taught me the value of putting in the work: we made intricate bûche de Noël cakes at Christmastime for which my sister and I toiled to roll marzipan holly leaves in food dye and fasten meringue mushrooms together with melted chocolate. Cooking was a forum for bonding that cultivated togetherness around our tables.

* * *

When I discovered my love of running, my concept of food evolved. Meals still meant community, but nutrition now informed their consumption. Caring for your body, I learned, extended far beyond the workout and the water bottle. Food was not just delicious nor simply an excuse for a gathering; it was fuel. On race days, I needed to be nourished with energy-rich foods like bananas and nut butters. After a race, I needed recovery––electrolytes, chocolate milk, and a treat because I’d earned it.

Listening to what my body wanted became a habit, and adhering to it was rewarding. I felt better when I remembered to choose food as fuel. I found it impacted not only race performance but also energy, focus, and drive. Berries and leafy greens turned into my go-to brain food accompanied by oatmeal to keep me satiated during long exams and standardized tests.

* * *

When I got to college, I took our salad bar for granted. There was so much available in the cafeteria including an overwhelming plethora of sugary cereals and super-sweet cookies. Choosing every ingredient and meal for myself, for the first time, was challenging. I’d consumed my mother’s low-sodium, protein-rich, and colorful meals all my life without really thinking through the balance of ingredients on the plate. I learned quickly that some foods made me feel good and others left me groggy, achy, or unsatisfied. I felt better when I filled up on fruits and vegetables with protein on the side rather than empty carbs, but I didn’t always choose this balance.

Then I found myself with a summer job working retail on Long Island, New York. The area is chock-full of farm stands. I became obsessed. Beefsteak tomatoes from the corner grocery store were practically unidentifiable next to their bulbous, flavor-popping counterparts still coated in dirt. I loved being able to enjoy unparalleled seasonal flavors while supporting local farmers on their turf, but I was puzzled by the high price tag and limited availability. There must be a way to get these flavors and nutrients––from foods that aren’t covered in pesticides––in big cities I thought. There had to be a way to lower their prices. The real food is out there, so how will we share it?

* * *

By my college graduation, real food, to me, had many meanings. It was synonymous with community, health, fuel, farms, and flavor. My definition, however, was not yet fully formed.

Two months later, Teach For America sent me to Denver, Colorado, where I began teaching at a public charter school that serves free or reduced price lunch to over 90% of its student body. Students and teachers were hungry come lunchtime, and consuming a healthy midday meal directly correlated to the productivity of the afternoon learning. On some days, when a student didn't care for whatever plastic-sealed meal was being served, he or she would choose not to eat at all. This struck me as problematic. Of course, kids are notoriously picky eaters, but what are we doing to mitigate this trend so no child leaves school hungry?

I decided to support an after school cooking class in which we cooked healthy meals, taught students about nutrition from around the table, and sent kids home with free groceries to recreate the recipes with their families. The kids were thrilled to discover names for new foods, slice and dice vibrant veggies, and share the dish they’d contributed with their classmates. At dinner, we would identify the food groups on our plates: fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, as well as dairy. Then, we would ask the group which food groups they’d consumed earlier for lunch; often, a child would say something like, “Well, today I didn't eat my vegetables. I like this dish, though, so maybe tomorrow I’ll try some.”

When healthy foods become recognizable and accessible, they become part of our daily habits. When Real Food becomes the norm, we won’t need to think twice about the access to nutrition for our children. Until then, the work continues, and I am committed to being a part of the journey.

Are you passionate about real food in schools? If so, you can help by supporting the Chef Ann Foundation—click here!

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.

http://www.chefannfoundation.org/news-media/the-lunch-line-blog/why-real-food-matters-to-me/#disqus_thread 2018-12-12T16:12:00+00:00