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The Real School Food Project

by Chef Ann Foundation
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The Real School Food Project
The Real School Food Project
The Real School Food Project
The Real School Food Project
The Real School Food Project
The Real School Food Project
The Real School Food Project
The Real School Food Project
The Real School Food Project
The Real School Food Project
The Real School Food Project
The Real School Food Project
The Real School Food Project
The Real School Food Project
The Real School Food Project
The Real School Food Project
The Real School Food Project
The Real School Food Project
The Real School Food Project
The Real School Food Project
The Real School Food Project
The Real School Food Project
The Real School Food Project
The Real School Food Project
The Real School Food Project
The Real School Food Project
The Real School Food Project
The Real School Food Project
The Real School Food Project
The Real School Food Project
The Real School Food Project
Chef Ann Staff Signatures
Chef Ann Staff Signatures

We are in solidarity with the #BlackLivesMatter protests throughout the country. We are an anti-racist organization and are committed to supporting our community members and partners in dismantling institutional racism. We envision a world that supports the health and safety of all people. We are not there yet. 

We can and must do better.

More than 1 in 5 children are at risk of hunger, and among African-Americans and Latinos, the number is 1 in 3. These numbers continue to rise due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and many on the front lines feeding our kids are our black and brown community members. As a team, we will fight against racism, hatred, and inequity, and we join the chorus of voices calling for justice to be served. 

We understand food justice to be an integral part of social justice. Through our ongoing work in school food, we create systemic change in school cafeterias to end injustices around food access in all communities. Just as it is our mission to help children grow up healthy and strong, it is our collective obligation to make sure that the world they grow up in is worthy of them. 

Extinguishing institutional racism must be a priority for all of us.

We know it’s impossible for kids to get the nourishment they need to thrive in schools without dismantling the institutional and structural racism that has shaped our education system, our food system, and our country as a whole. 

We do not claim to be perfect as an organization or as individuals. We can all be better, and we can all do more.

In solidarity,


The Chef Ann Foundation Team

 

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Kids in the Cafeteria
Kids in the Cafeteria

2019 was a big year for the Chef Ann Foundation - we celebrated a decade of working with school communities to help them serve healthier food to children across the country. We couldn’t have reached over 3.2 million kids in more than 11,800 schools without your dedication and support. Thank you for sharing in our mission and believing that every child deserves healthy food every day.

Our programs are the heart and soul of what we do. Through our four major programs, we are able to equip school food professionals, parents, healthy food advocates and more with the tools they need to implement healthier, scratch-cooked food in schools.

Salad Bars to Schools

In 2019, we granted 223 salad bars to schools across the country in partnership with United Fresh Start Foundation and Whole Kids Foundation—bringing our total number of salad bars granted to 5,641!

"The salad bar has made it much easier to meet the meal pattern requirements while still encouraging student choices," said Emily Cena, Salad Bars to Schools grantee and Food Service Director for Ramona Unified School District, CA.

School Food Institute

The nation’s only personal learning platform for school food professionals dedicated to cook from scratch operations launched three new courses: Plant Forward, Ingredients for Healthier Kids, and Sustainable Lunchrooms. We also translated every course into Spanish! Click here for our translator’s take on bridging language barriers in school kitchens.

Get Schools Cooking

We’re entering the final stages of our very first cohort’s 3-year program. These 2016 GSC districts— Bellingham Public Schools (WA), Buford City Schools (GA), Passaic School District ( NJ), and Watertown Public Schools (MA)—have introduced new scratch-cooked recipes, installed salad bars, added new vendors to procure local products, eliminated highly-processed items from their menus, and so much more.

Transitioning to a scratch cooking model takes effort and time. “This isn’t going to happen overnight,” said Bellingham Food Service Director Patrick Durgan when we caught up with him earlier this year. “Since we’ve started making some of these changes, the response has been positive.”

The Lunch Box

Our free tools and resources were downloaded over 18,000 times in 2019; the Food Cost Projection worksheet is one of our long-standing most popular downloads. We also registered  4,468 new users in 2019—a marked increase, and a good indicator of the rise of scratch cooking in schools.

Real School Food Challenge Goes National

In 2019, our fundraising and awareness event went national! Chefs around the country crafted and added a USDA-compliant school meal to their menus during the month of October. Proceeds from each restaurant benefited the Chef Ann Foundation and were matched dollar-for-dollar thanks to our sponsors. We also partnered with StarChefs to debut five recipes at the International Chefs Congress in Brooklyn, NY, where former Rising Star-turned-school chef Mihoko Obunai won first place for her Japanese chicken curry.

Spreading the Word on Scratch Cooking in Schools

We had many opportunities to spread the word about scratch cooking in schools, from the AFHK Parent Workshop in Denver, CO to the Healthy Kids Collaborative (hosted by the Culinary Institute of America) in Napa, CA. CAF was also accepted into the Food System 6 accelerator program, where we collaborated with tech and ag leaders in the Bay Area. 

Kids Cooking Competition
Kids Cooking Competition
Boys Voting on New Recipe
Boys Voting on New Recipe
Girls Loving the Salad Bar
Girls Loving the Salad Bar

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We recently donated a salad bar to El Monte City School District in California. The Food Service Director applied for the Salad Bars to Schools grant in 2017, and this is the second year that all 14 schools have used the bars. Below, we have included an interview with the Food Service Director from this district. 

District Preparation 

How did you prepare your district to receive and begin implementing salad bars? 

Before we received our salad bars, we trained all of our employees on appropriate stocking protocols, how to cut up fresh fruit and vegetables, and the overall appearance of the salad bar. 

Did your staff need additional support? 

No, at El Monte City Schools, our staff are all trained cooks with ServSafe certifications. We did allot three additional labor hours for each one of the schools to fully incorporate the salad bars. This necessitated a new position at each site, ultimately creating 14 new jobs within our community. 

How did you prepare your students for their first day using the salad bar? 

Principals took on the responsibility of talking to students about how to go through the salad bar line. They explained how the salad bar is not a fast process, students should take their time. They can choose what they want but they need to be sure to eat what they choose. Every one of our schools also did a mock walkthrough with the salad bars before the full implementation day to get students and teachers used to the flow.

Overcoming Challenges

Do you have any advice for new Salad Bar recipients on how to manage excess food waste? 

My advice is to stock the salad bar a lot at the beginning of the week with 8 or 9 choices, then you use the leftovers as the week goes on so that there are no leftovers for the weekend. Throughout the week we monitor what kids like and don’t like, to see what's leftover and take that into consideration for future orders. I also rely on my production records to manage waste and track popular options.

Did you experience increased food costs? If so how did it impact your program?

Running our salad bar program has only temporarily increased our overall food cost. We are able to get most of our fresh produce through our USDA Commodity Dollars, which helps us save money. Knowing how to rework our commodity dollars is crucial. In January, I will be shifting our percentages away from spending those dollars on frozen fruits and vegetables to fresh options. Our program is really rocking now, so I will be putting more of my USDA Commodity Dollars towards fresh items for the salad bars.

How has your labor changed, if at all? 

The only change we have had to make is the addition of a few more hours to our delivery driver's workday. We prefer to take the salad bar supplies out separately so that we maximize freshness. Ultimately it hasn’t been a lot of hours but we have had to add a few. 

Are there any other program successes you would like to share?

Some of our schools celebrate when all of their students have perfect attendance. On these academic achievement days, I’ve asked the principals to let me plan the food, and make it a special lunch. We will usually have a big outdoor barbeque and I get out the salad bar as a feature for the special day. It’s a great way to work with the principals to get kids interested in eating healthy. On these days we see great participation, usually around 97 percent! 

It's also been amazing to see the little kids in kindergarten come through the salad bar. They say it's just like when they go out to eat, like going out to a restaurant. Overall, we have seen our participation increase and kids are eating healthy, so it’s really a win-win situation all around!

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Lettuce for the salad bar
Lettuce for the salad bar

Director of Child Nutrition Services Jamie Phillips is not new to school salad bars, and it shows. Having already implemented his first salad bar program while at Upland Unified School District (USSD), Phillips wasted no time in applying for the Salad Bars to Schools program at his new district, Vista Unified (located in Vista, California). By leveraging the grant and new salad bars as a cohesive program, he established a crucial base for reinventing the way kids in his district view healthy eating.

 

Since implementing the salad bars in August 2017, Phillips has seen a tremendous impact on what children are eating.

 

"The biggest change is that, while all kids go through the lunch line, we have more kids taking items from the salad bar," Phillips said. He added that since they've upgraded from the old salad bars with cracked glass to sleek, brushed aluminum equipment, kids have been more likely to choose vegetables.

 

It's not just the physical salad bars that have changed kids' minds, though. Phillips’ program has launched other initiatives throughout the district that promote healthy eating to students. Classrooms now include lessons on how to create a "rainbow-colored" tray filled with fruits and vegetables, and the Harvest of the Month program features one special fruit or vegetable for kids to see and taste.

 

Gardening has also been a transformative part of their program. Vista Unified holds school garden classes in which kids grow all the produce," Phillips shared. From the garden, the fruits & vegetables go to the salad bar for the next lunch. Phillips often “pays” fair market value for all the produce, and the proceeds go right back into the garden program, which has proven highly successful.

 

"Our high school students at Vista High donated over 100 pounds of romaine lettuce, so they are interested in coming back to eat it," Phillips noted, indicating the excitement of student-grown nourishment.

 

Younger children are invested, too. Elementary schools hold farmers' markets at which students can purchase two school-dollars’ worth of produce. One school's mascot is the Panther, so students there pay in "Panther Bucks."

 

As a whole, Vista Unified School District (VUSD) has embraced the Farm-to-School mission. The cafeteria program partners with nearby farms to serve local produce and engage the community.

 

In the 2017-18 school year, VUSD's produce included over 75,000 lbs of California-based foods; as of February 2019, the district had already reached 144,000 lbs of local produce, staying on track to hit 175,000 lbs by the end of the year.

 

Working with small, local farmers requires extra work, but Phillips says it is worth it. The district works with 60 different farmers, some of whom only have a few acres of land. To help streamline the process, farmers deliver all of their produce to one central location, from which the district allocates out to schools.

 

Coordinating that many vendors into agreement is not easy. Most school food contracts include language that excludes farmers, and many farmers are hesitant to partner with schools due to the food regulations and requirements for delivery without contingency. To better embrace local procurement, VUSD drew up new contracts to offer more flexibility to farmers; if one farmer can't provide produce at a given time, the district will go to another farmer on the list.

 

"We want to work with farmers," Phillips said. "Our kids—their parents are working at these farms. We want to support the community."

 

All of this community coordination is possible with the district’s salad bars and their ability to serve a wide range of fresh and local produce. The program has also piqued parents’ interest. Phillips sends out a monthly newsletter offering kitchen tours and surveys to gauge awareness of the Farm-to-School and salad bar efforts. An elementary school survey this fall revealed that, of 195 responses, 95.7% were aware of their Farm-to-School salad bar.

 

"In the two and a half years I've been here, I've thrown a lot on my employees," Phillips acknowledged. "I am constantly trying to improve our farm-to-school programs. It wouldn't be possible without their support and dedication."

 

For VUSD, working towards food equity doesn't stop here—reducing food waste is another priority on Phillips’ list. He’s implementing share tables in the cafeteria in order to donate leftover food to food banks in the area.

 

"School food is critical," he said. "The food we are putting in our kids' bodies is a reflection of them. Our kids are going to be our future, realistically taking care of us some day. We need them to grow up healthy and take care of themselves. Hopefully, they can learn healthy habits at a young age and see the benefits of that long term."

 

For more information on the Salad Bars To Schools program, and to apply for a grant in your district, visit saladbars2schools.org today.

Upland Unified Farmers Market
Upland Unified Farmers Market

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Two students enjoy Lummi Island Wild Salmon Cakes
Two students enjoy Lummi Island Wild Salmon Cakes

For Patrick Durgan, a focus on scratch-cooking practically came with the job. Soon after being appointed Director of Food Services and Executive Chef at Bellingham Public Schools (BPS) in Washington, Durgan jumped feet-first into Chef Ann Foundation’s Get Schools Cooking (GSC) grant program, a 3-year intensive dedicated to transitioning schools to scratch-cooking.

 

Durgan traveled to Boulder, CO where the Foundation is based, to join the 2017 GSC cohort for the program workshop March 16-17, 2017. This 3-day kick-off focuses on everything school districts need to know to start scratch-cooking, from procurement to accounting.

 

For Director Durgan, it was hugely beneficial to hear insights and gain perspective from experienced players in the school food movement, like Beth Collins and Chef Ann Cooper.

 

“It was great to have Ann to say, ‘Yeah, you can expect that,’ or ‘This is where you should be,’” he shared. "What I took away from it is that [implementing scratch cooking] is really hard.”

 

Through the GSC training, Director Durgan learned how to grab easy wins in the transition and about inevitable challenges he would face. For example, when cafeterias remove the high-fat, high-sugar foods that kids love, there can be a dip in participation, he explained, but once schools refine new recipes using student feedback, the system begins to work.

 

In his own words, simply put, "This isn't going to happen overnight."

 

The Work Begins

Transitioning to a scratch cooking model takes effort and time. Get Schools Cooking is a three year program, and, by next school year, cafeterias in the Bellingham, Washington district will be scratch cooking up to 30% of the food served to kids.

 

BPS is also shifting to a centralized production model—the model that Chef Ann recommends most often. The centralized model fits BPS’ need to streamline processes and production. The district originally used four production sites, each with different storage, infrastructure, and cooking capacity. The district has since reduced its production sites to three, but the central kitchen will undoubtedly be a game-changer.

 

"I think a lot of what we were doing was waiting … for the central kitchen to be built. We didn't have the infrastructure to jump into scratch cooking development."

 

Rather than wait until the kitchen is complete, Director Durgan has spent much of the last two years setting the stage for the major changes to come. His marketing efforts have centered on engaging the community around the new food system and implementing small changes, a few at a time, to get kids on board.

 

Thinking Local Food

"As we started changing our infrastructure and our menus a little bit, we learned it didn't work to change the menu drastically for kids,” Director Durgan explained.

 

Prior to its scratch cooking transition, the Bellingham school kitchens served pre-formed chicken breasts, which were processed but consistent portion sizes. Once the district began partnering with local farms, they could offer local chicken breast but now struggled with maintaining portions. In order to continue serving a similar chicken dish without the challenge of uneven portions, Director Durgan oversaw the transition to using pulled chicken in recipes.

 

Pulled chicken began replacing the pre-formed patties in dishes like chicken tacos or barbecue chicken sandwiches. Director Durgan explained that this meant “once we got into scratch production, kids wouldn't see a lot of change.”

 

Additionally, BPS is committed to supporting the local food economy, which means selecting ingredients from local farmers when possible. Next year, BPS will add salmon cakes to the mix, supporting local fishermen and using wild salmon from the nearby Puget Sound.

 

“When we can put a face to a carrot or a piece of broccoli, we can convince kids to try it. Plus it's fresher!” Durgan remarked.

 

The Road Ahead

Overall, Director Durgan says the community is enthusiastic about the improvements to school food.

 

About 33% of students in BPS qualify for free or reduced lunch, and about 18% of students pay for school lunch. Director Durgan expects to see the latter number rise as the district transitions more and more to healthy, scratch cooking— just as participation increased when they introduced salad bars two years ago.

 

"Since we've started making some of these changes, starting some of our scratch recipe testing and getting that out to kids… the response has been positive,” he said. "Kids are really savvy. They know what foods they like. Every kid in our district knows what quinoa is."

 

Quinoa, really? Yes, BPS has been partnering with food education groups for seven years now. From these programs, kids learn to take “adventure bites” and “not yuck someone’s yum.” Director Durgan noted that having this food education piece has been critical to gaining traction.

 

“If we can start food education at a young age and fight the stigma about who eats what, [we’ll] be able to share differences over food, [which] is a really important thing globally. No matter who we are or where we come from, we need food,” Director Durgan said.

 

As BPS experienced, school food change can take time—but with hard work and perseverance, big results centered on healthy fresh food can happen.

 

For more information on the Chef Ann Foundation’s Get Schools Cooking program, click here. Grant applications will re-open this August—stay connected via Facebook, TwitterInstagram and our newsletters to ensure you don’t miss out!

Sampler of Bluebird Grain farro salad
Sampler of Bluebird Grain farro salad
visioning board to plan out menu options
visioning board to plan out menu options
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Chef Ann Foundation

Location: Boulder, CO - USA
Website:
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Twitter: @ChefAnnFnd?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoo
Project Leader:
Danielle Staunton
Boulder, Colorado United States
$72,002 raised of $75,000 goal
 
2,795 donations
$2,998 to go
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