Oct 11, 2017

Expanding Kid's Palates with Fresh Fruits and Veggies

The Great Pear Debate
The Great Pear Debate

350 kids attend West Oak Middle School in the suburbs of Illinois and almost all of them eat school lunch. Shockingly, 266 of those kids are on the Free/Reduced Lunch Program. That means their family’s income is at or below poverty level. Children from low income homes are at higher risk for obesity and diabetes due to poor diets.

West Oak Middle School is a recipient of Chef Ann Foundation’s Project Produce: Fresh Fruits and Veggies Grant. The school’s lunch menu is partially made up of scratch cooked meals, and the food service team is dedicated to making sure their kids eat real food at school, taste out of the box recipes made with less common produce, and develop healthy eating habits early.

The school’s food service director partnered with a local farm to procure produce not typically provided by the USDA, which comes frozen or in cans, for the “Chef’s Tasting Table”. Their goal was to engage students, parent volunteers and school personnel in a series of in cooking unique recipes for school-wide tastings. According to the district’s VP of Operations, the program was “extraordinarily successful”.

Teams of students, parents and school staff used creative recipes highlighting a variety of locally harvested produce to demonstrate there is more out there than just apples, carrots and cucumbers. While cooking, the food service staff discussed the nutritional value of each item and random facts about each ingredient so they could have meaningful dialog with the other students during the tastings. Many of the events included take home recipes to extend the nutrition education into the home.

The team made great use of the funding from the grant, hosting 11 tastings with some pretty creative ingredients and recipes:

  • Jam Jar Scratch-Made Dressings for Assorted Raw Veggies and Greens
  • The Great Pear Debate: Asian VS Anjou
  • Scratch-Made Chocolate Pudding made with Avocado
  • Unique Combination: Kiwi and Cucumber Salad
  • Fruit in my Slaw: Cabbage and Apple Slaw
  • You Can’t Beet That: Beet Hummus
  • Mardi Gras- Superfood Salad with Broccoli, Sweet Potatoes and Pomegranate
  • St. Patrick’s Day Shamrock Spinach Smoothies
  • Introducing Fennel
  • Squash It Salad: Cauliflower, Radishes and Fresh Peas Squashed with a Rolling Pin

The results of the Product Produce program greatly impacted what the children started requesting on the school lunch menu. The desire for more seasonal produce has increased the school’s local procurement by almost 20%.

Avocado Pudding
Avocado Pudding
Locally Sourced Raw Veggies
Locally Sourced Raw Veggies


Jul 12, 2017

Chef Ann Foundation 2016 Annual Report

Dear Friend of the Chef Ann Foundation,

We are reaching out with sincere gratitude for your support. Your generosity and commitment to the Chef Ann Foundation’s mission has helped us reach over 2.8 million children in every state with healthy school food. 30.5 million children eat school meals each day—together we will make sure they are getting the nutrients they need to be their best in school and out.

2016 was a big year for the Chef Ann Foundation! In our 2016 Annual Report, you will see how our programs impact the lives of children, parents, and school food service employees across the country.

  • We launched our first School Food Support Initiative cohort, working with them to transition their school food operations to a scratch-cook production model and giving 22,321 children access to healthy school meals.
  • We awarded 122 schools with Project Produce grants which allow kids to touch, smell, and taste fresh fruits and vegetables while learning about their nutritional value, how they are grown and harvested, and how to cook them.
  • We delivered 621 salad bars to schools and now kids across the country are eating more fresh fruits and veggies every day.
  • We launched a new awareness and fundraising event – Real School Food Challenge – where chefs compete to make a USDA-compliant recipe within a school budget. It’s not easy, but now home chefs, celebrity chefs, and entire communities know it can be done!

While 2017 began with uncertainly about our children’s futures, the Chef Ann Foundation is continuing to make big strides in school food reform. Here is a small sample of what we are working on:

  • We expanded our School Food Support Initiative to include two more school districts than the previous cohort, reaching nearly 30,000 more students.
  • We are excited to launch the School Food Institute this fall! Chef Ann herself will be teaching the courses geared toward school food service professionals looking to learn more about scratch-cook operations. 
  • This fall we will roll out the Plant-Forward Menu Initiative on The Lunch Box, which will include recipes, menus, and marketing materials to support increased consumption of plant-based proteins in schools.

The new administration’s Secretary of Agriculture has already begun weakening the healthy school food requirements created during the Obama administration, but with your continued support, we will remain tireless in providing schools with the tools and funding they need to ensure every child has access to the healthy food they need to thrive.

Thank you for considering the Chef Ann FOundation when choosing your charitable contirbutions this year. Enjoy the Annual Report.

With Gratitude,

Mara Fleishman

Chief Executive Officer          

May 9, 2017

What the Chef Ann Foundation is Serving Up in 2017

Chef Ann Foundation's 2017 Goals
Chef Ann Foundation's 2017 Goals

While 2017 has brought this country many changes, at the Chef Ann Foundation (CAF) we have been doing the same old thing—helping schools serve up healthier food.

2016 was an incredible year that enabled our programs to reach over 400,000 kids nationwide! That pushes our total reach to 8000+ schools and 2.7 million kids!

However, there are still so many schools eager for our support, our waitlists are growing, and with school food reform continuing to take hold,  we’re ready to push forward in 2017 with new and existing programs to reach even more children.

Here are just a few of the things our team is really excited about:

261,484 Kids!

That is our reach goal for 2017!

Salad, Salad, and More Salad 

If you have followed CAF for any amount of time, you know that one of the best ways to get more fresh fruit and vegetables into schools is to incorporate a salad bar.

Based on the research conducted in 2014, 78% of schools that have implemented salad bars reported an increase in the purchase of fruits and veggies. 

To date, through our Let’s Move! the partnership we have helped over 4,800 schools get salad bars, serving over 2.4 million kids, and in 2017, we’re projecting another 350 schools will receive salad bars, reaching another 175,000 kids.

Get Ready for Professor Cooper

Thanks to the Colorado Health Foundation, we will be launching our new School Food Institute this year. We will be providing innovative online learning classes for school nutrition professionals that allow them to meet their continuing education credits.

These courses will explore the fundamentals of school food operations through a cook-from-scratch lens. Altogether, we will be rolling out eight courses taught by Chef Ann Cooper, the first will launch in the fall of 2017. 

We don’t want to leave the lay people out! Get ready for School Food 101 which is geared toward undergraduate students who are interested in how school food fits into the larger food systems framework.

The Food Lab at Stony Brook University in South Hampton, New York is partnering with us to roll out a 15-week, online course that will cover childhood wellness in the US, school food operations, and how school food plays a part in the larger picture of sustainable food systems.

For those of you who have wanted to learn from Ann, now is your chance!

Scratch-Cooking Get’s Seven More Districts on Course

In partnership with the Life Time Foundation and Whole Kids Foundation, we launched School Food Support Initiative in 2015. This program provides districts individual support to help them move to a cook-from-scratch operation through on-site assessments, strategic planning, technical assistance, and funding to schools.

We were excited to see Pew’s study that came out in Dec, 2016 which found that “Directors whose programs prepared more foods from scratch and increased the use of salad bars were more likely to report that student participation rose” We will be working closely with the seven districts that were accepted into the 2017 cohort over the next two years to provide comprehensive support and help them move the needle. Stay tuned!

The 2017 Districts are:

  • Brewster Central Schools 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)

Don’t Blink or You’ll Miss All of the New Things on the Lunch Box!

The Lunch Box (TLB) will be a busy destination this year for school food service operators. We will be adding 60 new, farm-to-school and plant-forward recipes, including contributions from celebrity chefs, Ris Lacoste and Daniel Asher. We’ll also publish 50 new blog posts covering key topics like “The Keys to Commodity Planning” and “Infrastructure Needed for Scratch-Cooking in Schools.”

In our continuing webinar series, experts will be joining us to cover school food trucks, farm-to-school recipes and menu cycles, and human resources in school food services departments, along with a variety of other topics.

Our new Project Produce best practices database is now live and it is a great tool for schools that want to implement fruit and veggie trial and education programs in their lunchrooms. Like South Hamiliton’s Community School District in Jewell, IA and their “Try Day Friday” program.

Plants on the Menu!

CAF has partnered with Whole Kids Foundation to help schools and districts that want to extend their plant-forward menu offerings.

CAF’s Plant Forward Menu program will help schools gradually decrease the dominance of animal-based protein that we see on school food menus around the country. 

The benefits of plant-based eating has been well-documented over the last few years. Some studies even report that it takes nearly 100 times more water to produce one pound of animal protein vs. one pound of plant-based protein.

Even if a school can only reduce their reliance on animal protein by 5-10%, it makes a large impact. By the end of 2017, our program will have taken shape with recipes, menus, and information for schools and communities that address the impact of increased pant-forward eating.

Got Foodie Friends Up for a Challenge?

If you have not attended a Real School Food Challenge yet, you’re missing out!

We pull groups of home chefs or professional chefs together to stretch their culinary talents and compete to create the tastiest and healthiest, USDA-compliant school food recipe. All for only $1.25 a meal (the approximate amount that schools have to cover their food costs).

This year, we have some amazing events scheduled with chefs in California and New Orleans. Stay in touch on social media to hear about Real School Food Challenge events across the country and if you’re interested in hosting one in your area, visit this page to learn more and then reach out to Danielle Staunton at danielle@chefannfoundation.org to get started. 

And those are just the highlights. The CAF team’s passion and dedication to school food reform is unsurpassed. So, while 2017 progresses and feels like we might not know what’s around the corner all the time, know that the CAF team will stay laser-focused on ensuring all kids have access to fresh, healthy food every day at school.

To stay up-to-date with everything that we’re doing this year, sign up for our newsletter!

Girls Eating Lunch
Girls Eating Lunch
High School Students Eating Lunch
High School Students Eating Lunch
Three Girls Eating Lunch
Three Girls Eating Lunch
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