Chef Ann Cooper is an internationally recognized author, chef, educator, and advocate for healthy food for all children, and we’re excited to speak with her today on Rootstock Radio.
Ann has spent over 17 years working in school food and currently serves as Director of Nutrition Services for the Boulder Valley School District in Colorado. Ann is also the founder of the Chef Ann Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping schools provide every child access to fresh, healthy food.
Approximately two-thirds of kids eat lunch at school, and as Chef Ann Cooper puts it, “Hungry kids can’t think and malnourished kids can’t learn—that’s just the reality.” All too often, schools serve over-processed lunches that don’t support children’s physical and mental development. Ann is trying to change that. “We see that over time with education and school gardens and tastings and marketing, you really can make a huge difference in children’s lives,” she says, explaining that this transformation doesn’t happen overnight, but rather as a program matures it becomes sustainable and systemic within a school district.
The trick to getting kids interested in fruits and veggies? Ann says that positive peer pressure, giving kids choice (salad bars are excellent for this!) tastings, and education have worked wonders in her experience. And the benefits of serving more fruits and vegetables aren’t just for the kids. “If we can get more schools working in the farm to school arena, if we can get more school districts buying from local farmers, supporting local agriculture, we can make all kinds of change in the world,” says Ann.