1568441281 <![CDATA[Blog]]> http://athens.sierrabravo.net/~nguillou/f3/caf/ en Chef Ann Foundation Copyright 2019 2019-07-23T20:07:00+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
<![CDATA[Get Schools Cooking application open!]]> Emily G http://www.chefannfoundation.org/news-media/the-lunch-line-blog/get-schools-cooking-application-open-1/ http://www.chefannfoundation.org/news-media/the-lunch-line-blog/get-schools-cooking-application-open-1/#When:21:52:00Z Apply now for this 3-year intensive grant program to transition to scratch cooking

With rising rates of childhood obesity and recent nutrition rollbacks to the National School Lunch Program, the need for a positive shift in school food and children’s health is more important than ever. Through our largest grant program, Get Schools Cooking, the Chef Ann Foundation (CAF), in partnership with Whole Kids Foundation, is dedicated to supporting healthier school food by guiding districts through the process of implementing a scratch-cook operation. 

Why Scratch Cooking?

Scratch cooking—the practice of cooking with basic, whole ingredients like fresh fruits and vegetables—is a powerful tool for schools to move back to basics and provide children with nutrient-dense meals. With 30 million children eating school lunch every day, scratch cooking is an important movement in ensuring today’s youth get the nourishment they need and deserve.

A recent study from the National Institutes of Health found ultra-processed foods (with ingredients like high-fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils) cause people to eat more calories and gain more weight than minimally processed or whole foods. In addition, a 2014 study published in the Journal of American Nutrition and Dietetics examined the impacts of switching to scratch-cook operations and found that, although labor costs rise, they are offset by lower food costs. Therefore, schools have the opportunity to positively influence the health of our nation’s children and transform their food programs—but they need the support to do so. 

Grant Details

After three years of success supporting 15 school districts, Get Schools Cooking (GSC) applications opened again on August 19th to support districts transitioning to scratch cooking. Applications will remain open through October 28th, 2019. 

“This is our most comprehensive grant, an incredible opportunity for districts to work with school food experts to transition to scratch cooking,” said Mara Fleishman, CEO of the Chef Ann Foundation. “If your district is serious about wanting to move towards scratch cooking, this grant provides the hands-on support and partnership you need.”

The GSC program kicks off with a workshop in Boulder, CO, followed by an on-site operational assessment; strategic planning; a $35,000 systems grant to cover items such as equipment, staff training, and data solutions; and continued technical support to implement the strategic plan. The grant is valued at up to $267,000 per district. 

School food experts visit and assess each school district and their sites to provide customized recommendations and strategic plans across five key areas of school food operations: food, finance, facilities, human resources, and marketing. Each goal within these key areas supports districts operating a scratch-cook meal program. 

“What our kids eat at school matters! We understand that moving from processed food to scratch cooking takes a deep commitment,” said Kim Herrington, Programs and Finance Director of Whole Kids Foundation, “and making that change has enormous benefits for students’ health, their achievement, and the environment.”

For the 2019 cohort, CAF will continue its partnership with the Gretchen Swanson Center for Nutrition to evaluate each district's progress in meeting their goals and addressing the recommendations from their assessment. 

Economic Benefits & Local Procurement

Recognizing the economic benefits to scratch cooking, more states are proposing legislation that rewards schools for local food purchases, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is on board. The agency recently announced more than $9 million in USDA Farm to School Program grants “that will increase the amount of healthy, local foods served in schools and create economic opportunities for nearby farmers.”

While policies such as this are moving in the right direction, they overlook the fact that schools need to scratch-cook to take advantage of the local procurement incentives. Schools running heat-and-serve operations with frozen and processed food have limited opportunities to purchase from local farm producers.

Not only does scratch cooking present an economic benefit to the local economy, it offers advantages for school meal programs as well. According to a 2016 report from the Pew Charitable Trusts, school food directors report steady or increased participation in school lunch programs and stable or rising revenue after implementing more scratch cooking. 

With the help of GSC, districts can get on track to transition to scratch-cook operations to reap the benefits: healthier students with full bellies who are ready to learn, a stronger local economy, and a future of healthy eaters.

“I can’t explain how informative, beneficial, and invigorating this whole experience has been,” says Amber Watson, Nutrition Services Director for Marysville Joint Unified, a 2018 cohort district. “It’s really made me a better director and leader and I can see my staff are happy with the changes I’ve put into place thus far.”

To learn more about the program, visit the Get Schools Cooking webpage and register for an informational webinar on September 12 with CAF Director of Programs Emily Gallivan, Chef Beth Collins, and Amber Watson. They’ll discuss program components, the assessment process, and highlight the changes one district has made as a result of the program.

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http://www.chefannfoundation.org/news-media/the-lunch-line-blog/get-schools-cooking-application-open-1/#disqus_thread 2019-08-27T21:52:00+00:00
<![CDATA[A Summer at the Chef Ann Foundation: What One Intern Learned]]> Emily G http://www.chefannfoundation.org/news-media/the-lunch-line-blog/a-summer-at-the-chef-ann-foundation-what-one-intern-learned/ http://www.chefannfoundation.org/news-media/the-lunch-line-blog/a-summer-at-the-chef-ann-foundation-what-one-intern-learned/#When:22:34:00Z Ally Roberts spent 12 weeks at the Chef Ann Foundation this summer. Learn why she chose to be a School Food Reform Intern and what she learned during her stay.

(Left) Ally Roberts, CAF's School Food Reform Intern, giving a presentation on her summer 2019 internship at CU's Public Interest Internship Experience dinner.

By Allison Roberts, School Food Reform Intern, Summer 2019

Growing up, I remember food made me feel lethargic, bloated, and anything but energized. Following the summer of my sophomore year of high school, I discovered a slew of food allergies and sensitivities that, once I took into account (in conjunction with eating healthier, whole foods), transformed both my physical and mental health. This realization of the stark correlation between physical and mental health fueled my decision to study Neuroscience at the University of Colorado Boulder. When I learned about the Chef Ann Foundation (CAF) through CU’s Public Interest Internship Experience (PIIE) program, I knew it would be the perfect opportunity to explore the nonprofit world, learn the intricacies of school food, and gain a deeper understanding of the undeniable impact food can have on the minds and bodies of children.

I quickly learned that the school food world is complex, multifaceted, and also a really exciting place for innovation and positive change. Through programs like Get Schools Cooking, Salad Bars to Schools, and the School Food Institute, CAF sits in a unique niche area of school food reform, with a focus on working with food service directors and staff to implement sustainable changes to their procurement practices, finances, marketing, and more—all to provide kids with access to healthier, scratch-cooked food.

Throughout my role as the School Food Reform Intern, I hoped to challenge myself and learn as much as possible about the nonprofit sector and more specifically the Chef Ann Foundation. With a group of passionate, unyielding, caring, and driven co-workers, it was easy to dive in to projects and help out in any way I could. To highlight a few specific experiences: it was incredibly rewarding to help integrate Spanish subtitles into our current School Food Institute online courses, as this will be a huge step in increasing accessibility for school food workers who speak Spanish. Additionally, my work with the development team on our Real School Food Challenge event not only taught me valuable skills in outreach and event logistics, but showed me the power of generosity and how communal support is integral to deep-seated change. Outside the office, I had the privilege of sitting in on our board meeting at the Google campus, attending a conference on Youth Health Policy and Wellness, learning more about Slow Food, and spreading the word about CAF at the Colorado School Nutrition Association conference. 

Without the support of the CU PIIE program, and the incredible people working at CAF, such a transformative, growth-filled and unique experience would not have been possible. After 12 weeks at the Chef Ann Foundation, the correlation I see between child nutrition, child health, and performance in school has been further solidified. When children eat calorie-dense, yet nutrient-deficient meals, their concentration, grades, and mood are all compromised. It is imperative to have organizations like the Chef Ann Foundation to lay the foundational groundwork for better school food practices. This summer allowed me to see the complexities of school food and both how far we have come and how far we still have to go. Here's to healthier minds and bodies for children!


Ally Roberts is a former intern for the Chef Ann Foundation, and a current undergraduate student at CU Boulder studying Neuroscience. Her internship was supported by the Casey Feldman Memorial Foundation.

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http://www.chefannfoundation.org/news-media/the-lunch-line-blog/a-summer-at-the-chef-ann-foundation-what-one-intern-learned/#disqus_thread 2019-08-25T22:34:00+00:00
<![CDATA[Subtitles offer new language tools for school food professionals]]> Emily G http://www.chefannfoundation.org/news-media/the-lunch-line-blog/subtitles-will-offer-new-language-tools-for-school-food-professionals/ http://www.chefannfoundation.org/news-media/the-lunch-line-blog/subtitles-will-offer-new-language-tools-for-school-food-professionals/#When:20:07:00Z All online courses at the School Food Institute now feature Spanish subtitles! Hear from our translator on the importance of bridging potential language barriers in the kitchen.

By Daniela Ochoa Gonzalez 

The School Food Institute now features Spanish subtitles for all 11 courses! We’re excited to expand access to the healthy school food movement. To celebrate, we asked our translator, Daniela Ochoa Gonzalez, to share her views on the importance of translation and offer her insights as a native Spanish speaker who is passionate about school food in America.

Food, as for all of us, has been a part of my life since the very beginning—through its flavors, textures, and origins, but mostly in food loops and systems. Following grad school, I was fascinated by the mystery of our soil, how it nourishes us and our relationship to it, in every bite and everything we discard.

In 2013, I plunged into the school food universe. I visited 100+ schools in the central Texas area, praising best practices and motivating kitchen staff to go the extra mile to sort and compost organic waste in back of the house. I saw firsthand the outrageous food and milk waste in front of the house, and my passion for sustainability in the lunchroom soared.

Since I entered a stage of devoted motherhood in 2015, those exhilarating days in school cafeterias have been left behind. I started to limit my work to strategic translations performed during late-night hours or nap times while our little nest is peaceful and quiet. I wanted to devote these precious hours to worthy causes, and fortunately was gifted the opportunities to translate for sustainable agriculture organizations and, most recently, the Chef Ann Foundation.  

The Chef Ann Foundation is making strides to help remove the language barriers among school food service staff through these newly subtitled School Food Institute courses. Translating these 11 instructional videos for the School Food Institute has been a true honor. Providing Spanish subtitles, to me, is being mindful of a Spanish-speaking individuals’ most embedded way of perceiving the world.   

Whether your native language is English, Spanish, or both, these Spanish subtitles will help present new concepts as you define your mission and vision, design your strategic plan, tailor and sharpen your marketing and leverage the commitment of all your staff and student base.

If you are a native English speaker trying to learn, improve, or polish your Spanish fluency, these subtitles will help advance your goals. You will be able to learn verbs and terminology specific to the school food industry that will become handy with your coworkers while implementing your daily operations.

If you are a native Spanish speaker (like me), carving out time from your busy schedule to devote to one of these incredible courses, you will cherish the comfort of being able to focus on your online class while enjoying it in Spanish. If you are also trying to improve your English skills, I recommend playing the courses once just focusing on the content of the course (reading straight from the subtitles) and then a second time paying close attention to the instructor’s voices and words simultaneously. 

My hope is that this translation further advances the success of Chef Ann Foundation and that they expand all ESL (English as a Second Language) Spanish speakers’ vocabulary and terminology, boosting their confidence to boldly share each of these concepts. A few Spanish words and terms shared authentically—and with the right amount of enthusiasm—can become the edge needed to motivate your staff to shift and take the necessary steps to transition to scratch cooking.

These new translations unfold a wide array of possibilities for any school food operations team, all with the greater goal of improving school food for children everywhere.

To learn more about Spanish translations and how to access them, click here.

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http://www.chefannfoundation.org/news-media/the-lunch-line-blog/subtitles-will-offer-new-language-tools-for-school-food-professionals/#disqus_thread 2019-07-23T20:07:00+00:00
<![CDATA[4 Common Salad Bar Implementation Challenges, and How to Overcome Them]]> Emily G http://www.chefannfoundation.org/news-media/the-lunch-line-blog/4-common-salad-bar-implementation-challenges-and-how-to-overcome-them/ http://www.chefannfoundation.org/news-media/the-lunch-line-blog/4-common-salad-bar-implementation-challenges-and-how-to-overcome-them/#When:19:42:00Z We took a look at 5 years of evaluations to determine the most common challenges reported by salad bar grantees, along with resources to help districts overcome them.

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

Twice a year, the Salad Bars to Schools program runs an evaluation report where grantees report back on their successes, share statistical and numerical increases and discuss some of the challenges that they have experienced. While 96% of districts reported that their salad bars are still in use, we have looked at all of our evaluations over the past 5 years and identified the four most common challenges salad bar recipients have reported. We then compiled them here alongside resources to help all districts overcome these common challenges.  

“Our biggest challenge is planning the right quantities of food. How do we provide a salad bar that still looks bountiful at the last serving line without an excessive amount of food waste?”

We understand the challenges of projecting the exact volume you will need of each ingredient on the salad bar, but forecasting your purchases is possible! Once you successfully navigate your first year of salad bar implementation, you will then have historical data to base your future purchases on. Tips from our experts: 

  • Analyze your purchases, commodity, and DoD records to establish how much volume in your current lunch menus are attributable to fruit and vegetables in your current cycles.
  • If you have them, you can export your digital production records to see the current fruit and vegetables served at each meal period, align those numbers with your purchase and commodity history to get an accurate estimate of current volume served.
  • If you don’t have digital production records, you can use a large sample of paper records to manually calculate a percentage of fruit and vegetables served. This percentage can then be applied to the volume of purchases made. 
  • If your district is less experienced with fresh fruit and vegetables, head over to The Lunch Box for resources to help you develop a realistic RFP for produce and predetermine salad bar ingredient costs. 

“Our staff was struggling to get all of their fresh produce prepared and on the salad bar before the lunch line started.”

Staff training is an important component to fully prepare before you implement salad bars district-wide. Cafeterias are working within limited labor hours when preparing to implement salad bars, but we have seen a lot of success when foodservice directors can plan to factor training time into the budget.

If your bars arrive before you can schedule training and plan your budget, implementing a salad bar at one site, then using that site as a training location has been an effective way for districts to efficiently train their staff. Some ideas to help plan your training schedule:

  • If your district cannot allocate general fund money to the project, local sponsors and grants are viable options. 
  • A focus on preparation and food handling training will help decrease the time spent on food prep and can mitigate increased labor hour costs. 
  • Create well-articulated methods for ordering, receiving and sanitation before your salad bars arrive. If you cannot provide professional development training for your staff, this will help them understand salad bar protocols, and minimize increase costs that your district might incur through inefficiencies.  

“Identifying whether the student’s plate contains all of the required meal components is a challenge given the format of outlines and the number of students selecting the salad bar.”

Similar to what we identified above, training your students before your bars arriving will help overcome this challenge. Food education is as important as food safety and can help create a healthy learning environment and academic success. We advocate that food service staff encourage students to make their own choices to complete their reimbursable meals. Identifying foods, tasting new fruits and vegetables and creating composed salads that provide blended tastes are all important lessons that can help students develop healthy eating habits.

  • Using signs to illustrate and train students about portion size is a helpful way to help students understand for themselves if their plate meets the reimbursable meal requirements.
  • Menu boards, as well as visual aids, while students are in line, can help remind students before they get to the bars, what the meal requirements are.
  • Cafeteria activities such as Rainbow Days are a great way to engage your students once salad bars are in place, and can help introduce foods they might not be used to eating.

“One of the largest challenges we deal with has been supplementing the budget for the additional cost of the fruits and vegetables.”

It’s important to remember that when adding a new feature to your menu like salad bars, rolling over the prior year’s food expenses as the cost projection for your budget is not accurate enough. If you plan to have your salad bar replace your current fruit and vegetable side costs in your future menu cycles, a reasonable budget is possible and fairly straightforward to project. 

Despite these challenges, salad bars have proven to be an incredibly useful way for districts to incorporate their daily fruit and vegetable requirement while encouraging students to make their own healthy choices and try new things. There is currently a high demand for salad bar grants through Salad Bars to Schools, so getting your application in and working through the resources on The Lunch Box while you wait will help you hit the ground running when your bar is ultimately funded.

Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you need help finding a particular resource, or if we didn’t answer your question in this blog. To learn more and submit your application, click here.

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http://www.chefannfoundation.org/news-media/the-lunch-line-blog/4-common-salad-bar-implementation-challenges-and-how-to-overcome-them/#disqus_thread 2019-07-23T19:42:00+00:00
<![CDATA[The Chef Ann Team Taught Me Tenacity]]> Emily G http://www.chefannfoundation.org/news-media/the-lunch-line-blog/the-chef-ann-team-taught-me-tenacity/ http://www.chefannfoundation.org/news-media/the-lunch-line-blog/the-chef-ann-team-taught-me-tenacity/#When:21:02:00Z How One Parent Advocate Is Bringing Healthy Food to Her District

Jodie Lindsay Popma, of Smart Food Made Simple, with her sons Sam and Max.

By Georgina Rupp

Jodie Popma is a standout parent advocate in the healthy school food movement and a valued member of the community. Inspired to make a difference when she learned her son had a congenital digestive defect, Popma has been a mover and shaker for improving childhood nutrition ever since.

When she transitioned from a 16-year career at IBM to promote wellness full-time, reaching out to the Chef Ann Foundation (CAF) was a natural next step for Popma. She gained momentum right away when she received a CAF Project Produce grant for her school district, and hasn’t stopped since.

We spoke with Popma to learn more about how CAF helped launch her advocacy journey, the difference she’s made in St. Vrain Valley School District (SVVSD), and how she’s working with the community to pay it forward.

Why school food?

“When I had my second child in 2008, I learned that he had a congenital digestive defect,” Popma said. “My physician said he could not eat a standard American diet, so I started wondering about how children eat in this country and how I could make a difference.”

Connecting with CAF

Popma first learned about the Chef Ann Foundation when she decided to study holistic childhood nutrition in 2012. She purchased Chef Ann Cooper’s book, Lunch Lessons: Changing the Way We Feed Our Children, and was immediately hooked. 

“It made so much sense,” Popma reflected, “and I wanted to learn as much as I could as quickly as possible to help make a change in my home district.”

Popma works with SVVSD in Longmont, a town just outside of Boulder, Colorado. She is also involved with the Chef Ann Foundation supporting parent advocacy.

“I help other parents who need courage and empowerment to start something in their district,” she explained. “I am working with them to say, ‘You can do this.’ It's really about relationship-building and empowerment.”

Proudest accomplishment:

“My third year of Harvest Days when we did 13 events at five schools. Most of those schools have a high population receiving free and reduced lunch. It all comes down to empowering kids to make healthy decisions.”

She started the project by applying for Project Produce, the Chef Ann Foundation’s fruit and veggie grant program designed to create experiential nutrition education in the cafeteria. The program provides funds to support food costs to incorporate school-wide fruit and vegetable tastings into school nutrition programs. 

Once receiving and setting the Product Produce grant into motion, Popma set her attention on the district’s salad bars. “Even though [salad bars] were in the cafeterias, they were underutilized,” Popma reasoned. “I would ask the kids, ‘Why aren't you using it?’ and they’d say, ‘Well, I don't know how.’ They were a little intimidated by it.”

As a result, Popma gathered a team of volunteers to assist in teaching students how to use the salad bar. She also collaborated with the Boulder County Farmers Markets to bring fresh food to schools. By her third year, Popma had implemented the “Harvest Days” program at 13 separate events across five schools. The event included presentations on how featured produce is grown, from seed to harvest.

One tasting featured tomatoes of all different colors—purple, orange, yellow. Popma offered a child a tomato. His mother, who was visiting, replied for him: “He doesn’t like tomatoes.” Popma was amazed when, after explaining the purpose of Harvest Days as well as the sticker system for trying new bites, the child ate not just one tomato, but three!

“Making those kids feel like they are making choices on their own … is my biggest accomplishment,” Popma said.

Best advice you’ve been given:

“The biggest thing is relationships. You don't want to go in and ‘should’ all over people. Instead, you want to understand ‘where are they?’ Where are the gaps? And be helpful.”

Biggest challenge you’ve overcome:

“A big challenge is navigating through the school district and parents.”

More specifically, educating other parents is a challenge.

“They come in with their own conception of what school food should be. They don't know the rigor and process school districts have to follow to serve nutritious school food.”

Popma explained it’s important to know details like how many meals the district serves per day, what kind of kitchens they have (central, site-based, or a combination), and how many students are eligible for free and reduced price lunch. 

How has CAF influenced your work?

“Even though I’ve heard ‘no’ a lot in my district, the tenacity that the CAF team has taught me has empowered me to do more.”

Now, in addition to her work in SVVSD, Popma teaches nutrition to preschoolers, is involved with the Boulder County Farmers Markets, and works at a food pantry.

What’s next?

“I plan to continue working with under-resourced families in Boulder County and teaching parents how to make small changes to support better nutrition for their kids,” Popma said.

Her current project is the Farm to Table kid’s luncheon at the Boulder County Fair.

“As fair food is typically junk food, to be able to offer locally sourced, nutritious options will make a big difference for our community.”

The next big issue she plans to tackle? Supporting Michelle Obama’s school food efforts.

“The nutritional standards the Obama Administration put in place ensure students eat more nutrient-dense food at school. This is important because when kids eat food that feeds their whole body, their brains function optimally. Students learn better, teachers educate better, and we all benefit from this cycle.”

To Popma, all we can say is: Keep the momentum going!


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/the-chef-ann-team-taught-me-tenacity/#disqus_thread 2019-06-26T21:02:00+00:00
<![CDATA[Bellingham Public Schools gets a good food makeover]]> Emily G http://www.chefannfoundation.org/news-media/the-lunch-line-blog/bellingham-public-schools-gets-a-good-food-makeover/ http://www.chefannfoundation.org/news-media/the-lunch-line-blog/bellingham-public-schools-gets-a-good-food-makeover/#When:15:47:00Z Scratch cooking, salad bars, local procurement and more moved this Washington school district toward fresher, healthier food for students

Two students enjoy Lummi Island Wild Salmon Cakes and Bluebird Grain Farms Farro Pilaf at the Shuksan Middle School Community Family Night. The pilaf includes tomatoes, cucumbers and onions and is lightly dressed with a vinaigrette.

By Georgina Rupp  

For Patrick Durgan, a focus on scratch-cooking practically came with the job. Soon after being appointed Director of Food Services and Executive Chef at Bellingham Public Schools (BPS), Durgan jumped feet-first into Get Schools Cooking (GSC), a 3-year program intensive dedicated to transitioning schools to scratch-cooking. The district's participation in the program was supported by the Whole Kids Foundation

Durgan traveled to Boulder, CO to join the 2017 GSC cohort for the program workshop March 16-17, 2017. This 3-day kick-off focuses on everything school districts need to know to start scratch-cooking, from procurement to accounting.

For Director Durgan, it was hugely beneficial to hear insights and gain perspective from experienced players in the school food movement, like Beth Collins and Chef Ann Cooper.

“It was great to have Ann to say, ‘Yeah, you can expect that,’ or ‘This is where you should be,’” he shared. "What I took away from it is that [implementing scratch cooking] is really hard.”

Through the GSC training, Director Durgan learned how to grab easy wins in the transition and about inevitable challenges he would face. For example, when cafeterias remove the high-fat, high-sugar foods that kids love, there can be a dip in participation, he explained, but once schools refine new recipes using student feedback, the system begins to work.

In his own words, simply put, "This isn't going to happen overnight."

The Work Begins

Transitioning to a scratch cooking model takes effort and time. Get Schools Cooking is a three year program, and, by next school year, cafeterias in the Bellingham, Washington district will be scratch cooking up to 30% of the food served to kids.

BPS is also shifting to a centralized production model—the model that Chef Ann recommends most often. The centralized model fits BPS’ need to streamline processes and production. The district originally used four production sites, each with different storage, infrastructure, and cooking capacity. The district has since reduced its production sites to three, but the central kitchen will undoubtedly be a game-changer.

"I think a lot of what we were doing was waiting … for the central kitchen to be built. We didn't have the infrastructure to jump into scratch cooking development."

Rather than wait until the kitchen is complete, Director Durgan has spent much of the last two years setting the stage for the major changes to come. His marketing efforts have centered on engaging the community around the new food system and implementing small changes, a few at a time, to get kids on board.

Thinking Local Food

Mataio Gillis shares a sampler of locally sourced items, including Bluebird Grain farro salad with blueberries and salmon, at the DJ Cavem Eco-Hip Hop community event in March at Options High School.

"As we started changing our infrastructure and our menus a little bit, we learned it didn't work to change the menu drastically for kids,” Director Durgan explained.

Prior to its scratch cooking transition, the Bellingham school kitchens served pre-formed chicken breasts, which were processed but consistent portion sizes. Once the district began partnering with local farms, they could offer local chicken breast but now struggled with maintaining portions. In order to continue serving a similar chicken dish without the challenge of uneven portions, Director Durgan oversaw the transition to using pulled chicken in recipes.

Pulled chicken began replacing the pre-formed patties in dishes like chicken tacos or barbecue chicken sandwiches. Director Durgan explained that this meant “once we got into scratch production, kids wouldn't see a lot of change.”

Additionally, BPS is committed to supporting the local food economy, which means selecting ingredients from local farmers when possible. Next year, BPS will add salmon cakes to the mix, supporting local fishermen and using wild salmon from the nearby Puget Sound.

“When we can put a face to a carrot or a piece of broccoli, we can convince kids to try it. Plus it's fresher!” Durgan remarked.

The Road Ahead

Patrick and Mataio show off the visioning board they’re using to plan out menu options. Look closely: Bluebird Grain Farms is in the gold box in the middle!

Overall, Director Durgan says the community is enthusiastic about the improvements to school food.

About 33% of students in BPS qualify for free or reduced lunch, and about 18% of students pay for school lunch. Director Durgan expects to see the latter number rise as the district transitions more and more to healthy, scratch cooking— just as participation increased when they introduced salad bars two years ago.

"Since we've started making some of these changes, starting some of our scratch recipe testing and getting that out to kids… the response has been positive,” he said. "Kids are really savvy. They know what foods they like. Every kid in our district knows what quinoa is."

Quinoa, really? Yes, BPS has been partnering with food education groups for seven years now. From these programs, kids learn to take “adventure bites” and “not yuck someone’s yum.” Director Durgan noted that having this food education piece has been critical to gaining traction.

“If we can start food education at a young age and fight the stigma about who eats what, [we’ll] be able to share differences over food, [which] is a really important thing globally. No matter who we are or where we come from, we need food,” Director Durgan said.

As BPS experienced, school food change can take time—but with hard work and perseverance, big results centered on healthy fresh food can happen.

For more information on the Chef Ann Foundation’s Get Schools Cooking program, click here. Grant applications will re-open this August—stay connected via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and our newsletters to ensure you don’t miss out!


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/bellingham-public-schools-gets-a-good-food-makeover/#disqus_thread 2019-05-23T15:47:00+00:00
<![CDATA[Is your district considering a salad bar?]]> Emily G http://www.chefannfoundation.org/news-media/the-lunch-line-blog/is-your-district-considering-a-salad-bar/ http://www.chefannfoundation.org/news-media/the-lunch-line-blog/is-your-district-considering-a-salad-bar/#When:22:57:00Z

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

A salad bar incorporated into a school meal program can be one of the best ways to increase healthy eating habits and fresh fruit and vegetable consumption. It can also allow for increased learning potential for both students and food service staff. If your school is interested in procuring a salad bar or applying for a salad bar grant through the Salad Bars to Schools program, this article will guide you through some key factors to successful salad bar implementation. All the resources and information in this article can be found on The Lunch Box.

Adequate preparation for launch is essential to successfully implementing a salad bar program. There are several tools available to help you with this process. The Salad Bar Site Assessment is a downloadable and customizable tool that can be accessed on The Lunch Box. It walks you through evaluating labor, which equipment may be best for your districts, and regulations. It will help you identify specific challenges and assets per school site, and will help in creating a realistic budget, timeline and implementation strategy moving forward. Some of the things that the site assessment will help you consider are:

  • Operation Models
  • Age groups served and ADP
  • Prep and Storage space
  • Location and flexibility of the POS
  • Line speed adjustments with the current model
  • Vendor relationships

It’s not realistic for us to generalize what one district can or cannot support, but a good strategy is to be accountable for the changes ahead of time, track new program costs and adjust accordingly. A common misconception is that a salad bar will require more labor than a district’s current model of operation. Salad bar labor requirements can often be met by shifting the tasks and times of the existing team, and evaluating your current hotline service to accommodate your new equipment. We have editable example templates to run through different salad bar well arrangements. Working with your team prior to launch will help familiarize everyone with your plan going forward.

Getting students accustomed to using the salad bar is another crucial piece to successful salad bar implementation. Salad bars are an excellent way to engage the community around fresh and healthy diets and have the potential to influence healthy eating habits that can last a lifetime. Therefore, marketing your bar before, during and after your implementation will support the long term success of your bar, and will allow for an easier transition in the cafeteria. The Lunch Box has free downloadable posters and signs for your district to utilize around the cafeteria and on your salad bar. Adopting regular and robust cafeteria education could prove to engage your students in new ways, and interest them in participating in school food lunches.

Some examples that we have seen the most success with are rainbow days and harvest days. On Rainbow days, students are asked to create a rainbow with three or more fruits and vegetables on their tray. Once they finish eating their creations, they receive a sticker or other small reward. Check out this link to see a full How To for successful Rainbow Day implementation. The Lunch Box has many additional resources to help you navigate lunchtime nutrition education, with downloadable volunteer resources, flyers, sticker templates and more.

With all of these resources in your back pocket, you will be ready for your fresh and nutritious salad bar. The Salad Bars to Schools program is a simple and straightforward application that has the potential to fund one or all of the bars for your district. Complete your application today and check out all the available salad bar resources on The Lunch Box!

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http://www.chefannfoundation.org/news-media/the-lunch-line-blog/is-your-district-considering-a-salad-bar/#disqus_thread 2019-05-07T22:57:00+00:00