Chef Ann Cooper is on a Mission...

Ellen Haas Health Guide
  • To Change the Way We Feed Our Children


    Chef Ann Cooper is a leading force for transforming school cafeterias into culinary classrooms for students. She has been a member of the FoodFit Chef's Network since our launch in 2000. And I have worked with her in many ways over the years to reform the National School Lunch Program and improve children's diets.


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    Chef Ann has been called the"renegade lunch lady" by the media and is the author of Lunch Lessons: Changing the Way we Feed our Children (Harper Collins,2006). After changing the public school cafeterias in New York City, Harlem and Bridgehampton, NY, she is now the director of nutrition services for the Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD). In that role, she has been leading a charge to transform school lunch as never before. Visit her site, to see how she has been making a difference.

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    There are 16 schools throughout the district, and thanks to Chef Ann, here is some of what was accomplished in the last year:

    • Salad bars are in all schools
    • Removed 95% of the processed foods
    • Fresh fruit and vegetables served daily
    • A majority of food is now purchased locally
    • Organic Salad Bar at the High School

    Farmer's market


    I invited Chef Ann Cooper to join me at Ellen's Healthy Table to discuss her School Lunch agenda:



    Ellen: How is the Berkeley School Lunch Initiative a model for other schools across the country?


    Chef Ann: I totally think it can [be a model]. Berkeley is not the only place that can serve healthy food in school. It just takes two things: passion and priorities.


    Ellen: What are classic "healthy" menus in the Berkeley school cafeterias?


    Chef Ann: My favorite menu last week was barbecued chicken, roasted potato fries, a fresh Vegetable like zucchini, items from the fresh salad bar and 1% organic milk, topped off by a fruit dessert.


    Ellen: How would you define "healthy food" in the school lunch program?


    Chef Ann: It is as much fresh, whole and cooked from scratch food as possible. Little or no refined sugar or white flour is used, and we minimize the use of fried and processed foods. There are always lots of fruits,vegetables and whole grains.


    Ellen: What has been your biggest challenge since you arrived in Berkeley?


    Chef Ann: There are several big challenges including working with facilities that have no stove in the central kitchen. There are other issues as well, like a lack of trained staff, money problems, marketing and procurement.


    Ellen: What is most rewarding part of your job?


    Chef Ann: I love seeing the kids eat!!


    Here is a wonderfully healthy and delicious recipe from Chef Ann. It is perfect for a festive,fall family dinner and always popular at Ellen's Healthy Table:

Published On: October 04, 2007