Looking back on our achievements
It’s time for the Chef Ann team to take a breath. Before we forge ahead with the lofty goals we’ve set for ourselves in 2016, we need take a look back at what has been accomplished in 2015. I often find with my own New Year’s celebration and resolution setting that I don’t take enough time to reflect on what I actually accomplished the year prior. I did that this year and was truly blown away with all that I had done personally, with my family and for myself. Then I turned to the Foundation, and started thinking about what our team and partners have accomplished in 2015 at CAF. That’s when I knew I had to write this blog.
Most of the time I have felt like CAF has been the little engine that could, taking on the personality of our founder Ann Cooper. Our small team has been trying to make BIG change, at times pushing past a lot of obstacles to effect impactful results.
2015 was a big year for CAF programming: at the close of the year we reached in total over 2.3 million kids, with our school food programs, which have now been implemented in over 5,000 schools in every state of the country. Now, with 198,000 schools in America, I realize we have a long way to go, but progressive reform takes time and I know our team is in it for the long haul.
More Salad Bars in Schools
In 2015 together with our Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools partners (United Fresh Produce Association, Whole Kids Foundation and the National Fruit & Vegetable Alliance) we were able to provide 537 schools with salad bars, bringing our total up to 4,189 salad bars in school. This is really exciting. If your child does not have a salad bar in their school, make that a 2016 goal for your community and get your district to apply for one here. The research shows that a school food service program increases their purchase of fruits and veggies by 78% once they incorporate salad bars into their program. And our grantees are taking notice of this drastic uptick in healthy eating. “Salad Bars have made the greatest impact on children’s eating behaviors in Riverside Unified School District, where our goal has been to teach children to become life-long healthy eaters,” reports Rodney Taylor, former Food Service Director for RUSD.
More Fruit and Veggie Education in Schools
2015 was a big year for Project Produce, and there is no way we could have made such an impact with this program without our founding partner Healthy Skoop. We also had another great company step up and throw their support into the Project Produce mix: Earthbound Farm. In 2015 alone we supported 21 schools with Project Produce grants, which means almost 12,000 kids were able to participate in lunchroom nutrition education programs that included fruit and veggie sampling. Schools are getting creative, like Spark! Discovery Preschool in Longmont, CO. They organized a wellness day centered on the children’s book Up, Down and Around. Kids learned how different kinds of fruits and veggies grow while being able to prepare and taste the healthy foods they were learning about. At the end of the day, the chickpea pico de gallo that they made together was a new four-year old favorite…CRUNCH on that!
More Kitchen Equipment in Schools
With our amazing partner Whole Kids Foundation we have been able to support 10 school districts with $20,000 grants for kitchen equipment, which will help them create healthier school food that is prepared on-site, not processed and shipped in. From Pittsburgh Public Schools to Dallas Independent School District, we are excited to see what these districts cook up in 2016 with their new equipment.
More Healthy Breakfasts in Schools
Thanks to the Walton Foundation we have been able to provide 30 equipment grants for grab and go breakfast to support universal breakfast in the classroom. Over 13 million kids eat school breakfast every day, which is only half as many children who eat school lunch. Breakfast is such and important meal and many kids go without. Providing some baseline nutrition as kids start their day gives that child a better chance for success. Schools like Detroit Community Schools were able to implement storage, refrigeration, and transportation equipment for their breakfast programs, and we are excited to see the impact in 2016.
More School Food Reform Support
One of the year’s most exciting new programs was School Food Support Initiative (SFSI). This program has been in the works for a few years and we were so excited that the Life Time Foundation and Whole Kids Foundation decided to come on as partners in making it a reality. When a school is serious about change and they are committed to creating a cook from scratch program they will face a lot of challenges. SFSI provides schools hands on support through assessment, in person training, strategic planning, and technical assistance to create change. We were excited to award our first 5 districts these grants, each to receive program services valued at $118,000. Stay tuned in 2016 when the work gets underway and we report back on the process. There will be a ton of key learnings and content nuggets for other districts to learn from.
Well, that’s not all of it but it’s the majority, and when I look back at all the effort our team and our partners have put in to making it all happen, I am quite moved. Dedicating your professional life to creating change is rewarding but it can also be a bit exhausting. Everyone I work with pours so much of their heart and soul into everything they do, and sometimes it feels like change is slow coming. However when we take a moment to look back at the accomplishments, I hope we can all take a breath and appreciate our hard work.
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