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2017 Year in Review

Well one thing you can say about 2017 is that it wasn’t boring. All around, I think 2017 was a year that will stand out in most American minds for some time to come. It will stand out for me both personally and professionally.

On a personal front, my kids started 1st, 8th and 11th grade and life has been a bit of a whirlwind. Concerned about their futures, I started to educate myself more deeply regarding politics, legislation, congressional candidates, and the American democratic process in general. I am guessing this was the path for quite a few citizens in 2017.

On the Chef Ann Foundation front, we kicked some serious butt. I am approaching my 5th year at the Foundation and I have to say that 2017 was the most challenging and the most rewarding year yet. I logged many plane miles with my friend and inspiration Chef Ann (not nearly as many as her) to bring the “Scratch Cooking IS Possible in Schools” message from VA to CA to FL to HI and many states in between. The great news is that I think people are really hearing this message. Grant applications to Chef Ann Foundation programs are up, and traffic and tools usage on the Lunch Box nearly doubled in 2017. This growth and engagement tells us that schools are making their own change. It’s no longer only parent groups or rogue administration leaders pushing for school food reform…it’s ALL community stakeholders. Everyone is getting a little more educated and a little more invested in making change.

I have to take a moment to thank the team over here at CAF headquarters, a group of intelligent, dedicated, and diligent individuals all genuinely invested in bringing healthy food to all kids, in all schools, every day. These accomplishments could never have been possible without their tireless efforts and many talents:

  • Heidi Kessler – Chief Programs Officer and all-around rules and regs guru
  • Danielle Staunton – Development Director and random dance party starter
  • Emily Gallivan – Programs Manager and resident foodie
  • Meghan Brenner – Programs Director and Steve Martin impersonator
  • Molly Brown – Programs and Admin Support or “the glue” as I like to call her
  • Caroline Mende – Teaching Assistant and quiet achiever

Collectively, the team made these accomplishments:

  • Reaching nearly 190,000 children with Chef Ann Foundation programs
  • 33% increase in The Lunch Box users
  • Over 20,000 downloads of resources and tools on The Lunch Box
  • Launched School Food Institute and registered over 400 students
  • Added 7 new school districts to the School Food Support Initiative program, which will benefit just under 19,000 students, 59% of whom qualify for free and reduced price lunch
  • Granted 321 salad bars to schools, bringing the year to date total to over 5,000

And we are entering 2018 full steam ahead. In addition to moving into a new office space to accommodate our growing team, we are growing our programs. Stay tuned for more information about three new courses from School Food Institute. Also, School Food Support Initiative applications open late January. We will be brining on a whole new cohort ofdistricts for this 18-month individualized program that helps schools transition to real, made from scratch food. It can be done!

As your 2017 comes to an end, I wish you a happy and healthy 2018. May your year ahead be filled with learning, empowerment, and engagement, both personally and professionally. Know that great work is being done, and that change is possible.


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