Get Schools Cooking








What is Get Schools Cooking?

Get Schools Cooking (GSC) is an intensive 3-year assessment and strategic planning program that provides schools with the operational knowledge to transition from a heat & serve to scratch cook operational model. (Program previously known as the School Food Support Initiative.)

Program Goals

  • Provide school districts with individualized technical support to assist in sustainably moving from a highly processed to cook from scratch operation. 
  • Assess barriers and identify recommended actions in five key areas of school food service: Food, Finance, Facilities, Human Resources, and Marketing.
  • Support districts in developing action plans that create the structured framework to achieve their strategic objectives.
  • Provide system improvement grants that support the implementation of recommended actions and next steps.

Program Overview

Once selected for Get Schools Cooking, districts will complete the following steps over a three year period:

Workshop: Districts attend a two-day workshop in Boulder, CO, home to one of the best examples of school food service innovation in the country. Workshop sessions review the foundational strategies for successful school food reform and include visits to Boulder Valley School District kitchens and cafeterias to see transformation first-hand. 

On-site Assessment and Report: School food experts observe every aspect of the current operations in action and identify opportunities for improvement in day-to-day activities. A post-assessment report of recommendations is used as a guide for next steps and working with leadership and the school community. 

On-site Strategic Planning: This is where it all comes together! Chef Ann Cooper and Chef Beth Collins lead key district leadership and food service team members through a strategy session to review the actions needed to achieve the desired changes based on the result of the on-site assessment. 

Action Planning: Districts work with the Chef Ann Foundation to track their progress in addressing recommendations outlined in the assessment and develop goals and next steps for continued change. 

Additional On-site Training and Off-site Technical Assistance: Districts are provided additional support to help them address recommendations from their assessment and meet their goals. This will include staff participation in Whole Kid Foundation's Healthy Food Service program that serves as an engaging and interactive training that brings food service staff along for the journey of cooking healthier food, being proud of their work and improving their own wellbeing.

$35,000 Systems Assistance Grant: Districts are given the opportunity to apply for a one-time $35,000 systems assistance grant that is designed to support the identified needs and goals of their program. 

Yearly Evaluations: For two years following assessment, districts participate in evaluative interviews and submit updated data to measure their progress in the program.

Program Impact

I can’t explain how informative, beneficial, and invigorating this whole experience has been. 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. — Amber Watson, Marysville Joint Unified School District, Marysville, CA

Previous program participants have:

  • Introduced new scratch-cooked recipes
  • Installed salad bars
  • Added new vendors to procure local products
  • Eliminated highly processed chicken nuggets and patties
  • Gained significant community support
  • Introduced whole muscle chicken

1st GSC Cohort

  • Bellingham Public Schools (Bellingham, WA) 
  • Buford City Schools (Buford, GA)
  • Passaic Public Schools (Passaic, NJ)
  • Watertown Public Schools (Watertown, MA)

2nd GSC Cohort​

  • Brewster Central School District (Brewster, NY)
  • Fridley Public Schools (Fridley, MN)
  • Norwood City School District (Norwood, OH)
  • Ocean View School District (Oxnard, CA)
  • Oxford School District (Oxford, MS)
  • Staunton City Schools (Staunton, VA)
  • Tempe Elementary School District (Tempe, AZ)

3rd GSC Cohort

  • Caroline County Public Schools (Denton, MD)
  • Goleta Union School District (Goleta, CA)
  • Marysville Joint Unified School District (Marysville, CA)
  • Napa Valley Unified School District (Napa, CA)

Program Eligibility

To apply, school districts must meet the following criteria:

  • Be firmly committed to working towards a scratch-cooked and fresh whole foods approach to their meal programs. 
  • Demonstrate support for improvement from district leadership.
  • Participate in the National School Lunch Program.  
  • Have a minimum district enrollment of 3000 students and serve between four and thirty schools.     
  • Run a self-operated food service program.

How to Apply

Each district should submit an application that includes detailed information such as meal counts and purchasing records. After reviewing applications, the Chef Ann Foundation will interview a select group of candidates to assess their readiness and ability to participate in the program. Program participants will be chosen from this group of applicants. For questions regarding Get Schools Cooking, please contact

The Get Schools Cooking application is currently closed and will reopen in January/February 2021. 

Get Schools Cooking Flyer 

Would you like to post information about the Get Schools Cooking grant program? You can download a flyer here.