By Claud Mann
Hardly a day has gone by since the start of the school year without some mention of school food in the local or national news. Most recently, hundreds of newspapers ran the same misleading Associated Press article citing a School Nutrition Association survey claiming that an alarming number of schools were opting out of the federally funded National School Lunch Program due to new regulations requiring larger portions of fruit, vegetables and whole grains. A quick look at the School Nutrition Association’s website shows that only 1% of respondents reported a plan to opt out. Obviously not mass exodus but apparently a headline like, “99% of Schools Continue Serving Healthy Food!” just didn’t seem exciting enough…to them. We at Orfalea are thrilled.
If there was any doubt as to whether School Food issues have become part of the national Zeitgeist, the jury is in. U.S. News and World Report has announced that Chef Ann Cooper — aka The Renegade Lunch Lady — will be a regular contributor to that publication’s Health and Wellness section. Chef Cooper’s most recent blog post, The Case for Sticking with the New School Lunch Program, puts the “opt out” issue in much needed perspective and questions the current media conceit that kids naturally dislike healthy food.
In addition to her current role as Director of Nutrition Services for Boulder Valley School District, Chef Cooper is a celebrated author, food educator, founder, and president of F3: Food Farming Family Foundation’s Lunch Box Project, an online toolkit launched with support from The Orfalea Foundation to provide free training materials, recipes, professional tools and collateral resources to assist schools striving to improve children’s health through fresh, scratch-cooked meals. The Orfalea foundation recently hosted F3’s executive director, Mara Fleishman at our first Seeds to Systems conference, a gathering of thought leaders working on school gardens.