Guest Blogger

Chef Ann Cooper

Chef Ann Cooper

Chef Ann Cooper is a renegade lunch lady. She works to transform cafeterias into culinary classrooms for students — one school lunch at a time.

At The Ross School in East Hampton, NY, Chef Ann served as the executive chef and director of wellness and nutrition, developing an integrated school lunch curriculum centered on regional, organic, seasonal and sustainable meals. The implementation of her pilot wellness program proved successful, and Chef Ann was invited to work with schools across the country. She has transformed public school cafeterias in New York City, Harlem and Bridgehampton, NY, and now in Berkeley, CA, to teach more students why good food choices matter by putting innovative strategies to work and providing fresh, organic lunches to all students.

Currently, Chef Ann is the director of nutrition services for the Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD), improving meals at 16 public schools with a population of over 9,000 students. In her work with public schools, Chef Ann is at the forefront of the movement to transform the National School Lunch Program into one that places greater emphasis on the health of students than the financial health of a select few agribusiness corporations. Chef Ann’s lunch menus emphasize regional, organic, fresh foods, and nutritional education, helping students build a connection between their personal health and where their food comes from.

Chef Ann’s newest book, " Lunch Lessons: Changing the Way We Feed Our Children " (Harper Collins, Sept. 2006), is overflowing with strategies for parents and school administrators to become engaged with issues around school food - from public policy to corporate interest. It includes successful case studies of school food reform, resources that can help make a difference and healthy, kid-friendly recipes that can be made at home, or by the thousands for a public school cafeteria.

Chef Ann did not always serve food in a cafeteria line; she is the former executive chef of the Putney Inn in Vermont. But her commitment to healthy, fresh food drove her to work with school administrators, politicians and parents - the people with the power over school food - to guarantee that wholesome food choices are available to kids today and kids tomorrow. Chef Ann’s definition of a healthy school lunch extends beyond the French fries, processed chicken nuggets and syrupy fruit salad found on the average commodity-driven lunch menu approved by the National School Lunch Program. According to Chef Ann, we won’t have much hope for future generations of healthy kids unless we begin teaching them what good food really is - The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has stated that 35 percent of our children are overweight, which statistically predicts that children born in the year 2000 will be the first in our nation’s history to die at a younger age than their parents.

Chef Ann, the past president of The American Culinary Federation of Central Vermont, is a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America, and the former president and current board member for Women’s Chefs and Restaurateurs. She also sat on the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Organic Standards Board and Chefs Collaborative - all in an effort to raise awareness about the value of healthful seasonal, organic, and regional foods and nutrition education for America’s children.

Chef Ann offers consulting services for school administrators, revamping their school lunch programs and offering nutrition and food choice education to students. She works with schools to incorporate integrated school lunch curriculums that not only promote nutrition and food education, but serve healthful foods and increase the availability of healthy food and nutrition choices for kids and teens. Through collaborative work with organizations including the Center for Ecoliteracy, Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse Foundation, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s Food and Society Policy Fellowship, Chef Ann has made tremendous strides in a variety of school wellness programs.

Chef Ann is the author of " In Mother’s Kitchen: Celebrated Women Chefs Share Beloved Family Recipes”(2005); "Bitter Harvest : A Chef’s Perspective on the Hidden Danger in the Foods We Eat and What You Can Do About It" (2000), a glimpse into food safety and the dangers of every day meals; and " "A Woman’s Place Is in the Kitchen": The Evolution of Women Chefs”(1998).

Visit Chef Ann Cooper on her website today!


Blog Posts by Chef Ann Cooper

  • The Case for Universal Breakfast: It Really Is the Most Important Meal of the Day!

    The Case for Universal Breakfast: It Really Is the Most Important Meal of the Day!

    By: Chef Ann Cooper and Sunny Young Eating a full and substantial breakfast can change your day. It can take you from a groggy and tired state to a ready-to-conquer the world mentality in minutes. It gets your metabolism going first thing and is essential to a healthy lifestyle.

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  • Can a French Fry Nation Embrace a Rainbow of Vegetables?

    Can a French Fry Nation Embrace a Rainbow of Vegetables?

    By Chef Ann Cooper & Chef Beth Collins Walk into any typical public school cafeteria these days and you will see one staple across the board: French Fries. According to the USDA’s School Nutrition Standards, vegetables must be served every day and French fries are the most often served vegetable in schools.

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  • What’s For School Lunch? High Fat – High Sugar – High Salt!

    What’s For School Lunch? High Fat – High Sugar – High Salt!

    The Story of the USDA commodity food program in schools. One issue not often alluded to in discussions of fixing school lunch across the US is the USDA commodity food program.  This program was designed to support agriculture by helping to keep prices high by buying up surplus agricultural product. 

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  • Food, Family, Farming Foundation

    Food, Family, Farming Foundation

    I helped to found the Food, Family, Farming Foundation (F3) so my vision for The Lunch Box Project ( could become a reality.  The Lunch Box is an accessible web portal toolkit, free and accessible for all to use to improve how we feed our children each school day.

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  • Why Do We Need to Sell Soda to Kids?

    Why Do We Need to Sell Soda to Kids?

    I recently heard that the superintendent of a large school district signed a contract with Coke, which would allow soda, sugar water and other drinks into the 72 schools of the district. The district has over 80% Free and Reduced students, is demographically diverse and mostly poor – an extremely “at risk” community.

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  • California’s Budget Woes Equals Cuts on Our Children’s Plates

    California’s Budget Woes Equals Cuts on Our Children’s Plates

    Yet again last night I found myself discussing the Nutrition Services budget for the Berkeley Unified School District. Berkeley has been extremely supportive in its efforts to bring healthy food to all of the students of the district.

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  • Joan Gussow – Organic Twinkies and Now Organic Gummy Worms

    Joan Gussow – Organic Twinkies and Now Organic Gummy Worms

    I grew up as a chef under the tutelage of male European chefs, because in 1977 when I entered the esteemed halls of the Culinary Institute of America – male European chefs dominated the educational staff.

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  • The National School Lunch Program – Time For A Makeover!

    The National School Lunch Program – Time For A Makeover!

    Sometime in late 2009 or early 2010, the government will vote to reauthorize the Child Nutrition Act, which funds the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). I believe that the NSLP is in need of a complete overhaul.

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  • Lunch Lessons

    Lunch Lessons

    Not a day goes by without the media addressing America’s growing obesity crisis, and lately the discussion has settled on our children. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has reported that if American children don’t get their weight in check, their anticipated health problems will significantly shorten their lives, and make them the first generation […]

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