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What’s on the Tray for 2018?

Chef Ann Foundation serves up more support for healthy school food

2018 rushed in with quite a bang. The Chef Ann Foundation team hit the ground running with an ambitious agenda to reach more. More districts, more schools, more kids.

As I started to write this blog, I took stock and realized just how incredible it is that we have a team and organizational structure capable of taking on the quality and quantity of work that is instore for us in 2018. I can remember back to when I started my work here in 2013. Four of us were working remotely from our homes trying to build awareness for school food reform and keeping up with the demand from district leaders who were passionate about a new way of looking at school food operations. And now we are nine team members strong and it’s no longer a small group of schools leading school food reform in our country.

Charging into 2018 we are raring to go and ready to take on the following work in 2018:

  • Grant out over 330 SALAD BARS and provide support to schools that need implementation guidance.
  • Grant out nearly 80 PROJECT PRODUCE grants to support fruit and veggie educational tastings in lunchrooms across America.
  • Launch 7 NEW COURSES through the School Food Institute to increase professional development in cook from scratch operations for school food workers.
  • Bring 4-5 DISTRICTS into our 2018 GET SCOOLS COOKING grant program to provide these districts with a customized support package to move them to cook from scratch operations.
  • Evaluate 3 2016 GET SCHOOLS COOKING districts to continue providing technical assistance, ensure goals are met, and progress is being made.
  • Finish assessments and strategic planning for our 7 2017 GET SCHOOLS COOKING districts and process their $50,000 systems grants to help them achieve their strategic goals.
  • Increase RESOURCES on THE LUNCH BOX by partnering with districts making change to provide webinars, operational blogs, best practice resources, recipes, and more.
  • Launch our new MORE PLANTS PLEASE! plant forward initiative for schools that provides schools with plant forward recipes, menu cycles, and educational materials for the lunchroom.

Looking at the work ahead of us in 2018, we are inspired and motivated that schools across the country are so engaged in making change. We know that the tide is continuing to move because we see how many people visit the for support materials, we see how many schools are applying for our grants, and we hear from schools that are pushing forward with change.

Schools in our Get Schools Cooking 2016 cohort are making big progress:

Buford City Schools in GA reduced their flavored milk offerings.

Watertown Public Schools in MA eliminated all ice cream and frozen desserts, and they replaced some processed meat products by introducing whole muscle chicken.

Bellingham Public schools in WA made a commitment to serving better school food through Bellingham Good Food Promise, a comprehensive outline that articulates the district’s key food values, and they are working to implement them through food education campaigns, by placing salad bars in every schools, and purchasing whole muscle chicken, and they are building a central cooking kitchen scheduled to open in 2019.

Our Project Produce grantees are using the lunchroom fruit and vegetable educational tasting as the impetus for change in their food program:

Diamond Lake School District in IL demonstrated to district administration the importance and impact of fresh fruits and vegetables and proved that students will eat them, which prompted the scheduling of a strategic planning session to implement more scratch cooking and continued fruit and vegetable tastings.

Cincinnati Public Schools in OH used their grant to support Cultural Celebration Days, which offered students the opportunity to expand their palates, lean about unfamiliar fruits and vegetables, and explore world cultures. Because of the celebrations, the district added new items to their salad bars, like jicama, avocado, and beets, they shifted away from steamed vegetables and now offer fresh roasted vegetables, and they made a commitment to serving more diverse options to students, including Mediterranean, Indian, and German cuisines.

Having supported the donation of now over 5,000 salad bars in schools we are also seeing great trends here. In our most recent evaluations, 70% of schools reported seeing an increase in school lunch participation after implementing salad bars. 65% of schools decreased their canned fruit and vegetable purchases, and 85% of schools increased their fruit and vegetable procurement.

The train is moving. If your school district is not talking about healthier food, you probably want to hop aboard and keep up the pace. Don’t fall behind and miss out on opportunities to improve school food and play a powerful role in leading by example to create change.

We are not even through the first quarter and 2018 already has a lot going on across the country. With so much happening, we have great need to remain focused on our long-term goals, no matter what change we are supporting and creating. My team and I remain focused on school food reform because of the need to continue supporting long-term solutions. We have many immediate needs right now in our country, and we know that small bandages do not help heal the gaping wounds. If we dig in deep to create systemic change, we can heal those wounds, and we won’t find ourselves with the same problems to solve in 10 or 15 years.

Fixing school food is not an overnight endeavor. Nearly eight years have gone by since the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act passed. It was the most progressive school food nutrition legislation we’ve seen, and getting it through congress took dedication, patience, persistence, and collaboration. But we did it. Our next steps will take just as much work and just as much time.

We all know that a balanced diet filled with fresh healthy food gives you the foundation to support success. We all know that when you eat a piece of broccoli, as opposed to canned pears in syrup, your body will perform better. We all know that children are born into circumstances, and that ALL kids deserve access to food that will help them thrive and meet their potential. This work will and should continue, and the Chef Ann Foundation will stay focused and determined to ensure all children have daily access to fresh, healthy food in schools.

Bring on 2018!


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