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Perspective: Ann Cooper on Healthy School Food

By WorldLink Staff | October 12, 2011 | Leave a Comment

Young minds need healthy food in order to learn and grow. Chef Ann Cooper discusses the importance of bringing fresh foods and from-scratch cooking back into school meals.

Chef Ann Cooper is a celebrated author, chef, educator, and enduring advocate for better food for all children. In 2009, Ann founded the Food Family Farming Foundation (F3), a nonprofit focusing on solutions to the school food crisis. F3’s pivotal project is The Lunch Box, a web portal that provides free and accessible tools, recipes, and community connections to support school food reform.

Discover more perspectives on changing the school food system in Michael Pollan’s School Lunch and Marion Kalb’s Farm to School.

Why are healthy school lunches a key dimension of learning?

Ann Cooper: Kids cannot learn if they are hungry or malnourished. In Berkeley, California I worked under Superintendent Michelle Lawrence, and after years of running the district, she said that if she could push one message nationally, it’s that “schools have a responsibility for the whole child.”

Healthy school lunches mean students are getting the nourishment they need to power their minds and bodies to learn. In some cases, school lunch is a child’s only meal of the day. That one meal should be healthy, filling, and delicious all at the same time. We owe that to our kids.

What does a healthy school lunch program look like?

Ann Cooper: A healthy school kitchen should include basic kitchen equipment, so that from-scratch cooking is possible. The cafeteria should be a nourishing place, where students are offered a variety of fruits and vegetables, healthy proteins, and whole grains. Every school should include a salad bar so fresh fruits and vegetables are available on a daily basis. Take the highly processed foods out, and bring the fresh foods in.

In a healthy school environment, lunch period starts with recess and ends with lunch, so that students work up an appetite. The only place left to go after lunch is class.

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