Even though summer has just started for the kids in the Washington, DC Public School system, one school is already thinking about fall! Brent Elementary, home to just over 300 K-5th graders, received a salad bar for their lunchroom through our Salad Bar Project grant process, and their parent-inspired “Salad Team” is making plans for keeping the energy going when the kids come back to school in the fall.
Last year, our shoppers donated $1.4 million to grant 564 salad bars to schools around the country. Whole Foods Market matched that generosity with an additional $1 million and as part of Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools, we are currently working to put 6000 salad bars in schools across the nation.
Brent Elementary is one of the first schools to receive their salad bars, and they are a great example of parent/teacher involvement helping to take full advantage of community resources. Jessica Smith, a passionate parent, decided to spearhead the salad bar grant application process and formed the “Salad Team.” When asked about the project, Jessica says, “You know, it’s moms and dads doing what they can.” And it’s making a difference. Brent also has a “Green Team” made of up parents and teachers who are working to make environmental improvements on campus and who are the liaisons for the Let’s Move program. The school has two Chef’s Move partners — Michael Bonk of Sonoma and Matt Hill from Charlie Palmer Steak House.
Having been deeply involved in the Salad Bar Project, The Lunch Box healthy tools for schools, and Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools for the past couple of years, it’s particularly gratifying to begin sharing the success stories from the more than 700 salad bars that have been provided to schools across the nation!
Jessica told me about the amazing energy surrounding the salad bar launch in March. The Salad Team made sure there was a mouth-watering display of fresh fruits and veggies to entice the kids to the salad bar. “Now we’re faced with keeping the interest up and finding creative ways to promote the salad bar,” she explained. “We had a Strawberries & Salad Day to help the kids understand the seasonality of local fruits. The kids loved it so much we ran out of strawberries.” One idea the school is exploring for the fall is education about a fruit or vegetable of the month that is also served on the salad bar.
Paula Reichel, Program Coordinator from DCPS Office of Food & Nutrition Services let us know that adding the salad bar fit perfectly with the deep commitments the district has made to improve the quality of food they serve. Amidst a wide array of changes was a rewrite of the Chartwell’s (the district’s third party food service provider) contract so that all menu items meet the Healthier US Schools Gold requirements and the Institute of Medicine nutritional standards. In addition, at least 20% of produce must be purchased from the local area and they eliminated flavored milk and highly sugared cereals.
When Daniel Thaeler, the marketing team leader at our P Street store, visited Brent Elementary in the spring he shared that the most striking difference from other schools was the energy. “It was contagious! From outdoor Teach and Learn Gardens to a Chef Series to the Salad Bar. Although the DCPS, DC Farms to Schools and stores like Whole Foods Market have helped provide stepping stones, it’s the commitment of parents, teachers, administrators and students of Brent who want change and are not afraid to be creative.”
We applaud the Brent Elementary community for taking advantage of every resource available, providing ways for even the busiest parents to be involved, and for putting in the extra effort this summer to inspire their students to continue making healthy food choices for life!
Nona Evans acts as the Salad Bar Project Coordinator for Whole Foods Market. Over the past 11 years she has worked to create a brand of marketing for the company that truly makes a difference in the communities we serve.]]>
Chef Ann Cooper brings us back to school in her U.S. News & World Report blog by highlighting three schools that are meeting the new USDA guidelines through creative and innovative strategies. She also updates us on congressional legislation that impacts school food.
Read the blogpost: "Back to School and Back to the School Lunch Debate" (U.S. News & World Report)
Chef Ann changes lives...she changed mine. I met Ann Cooper in 2008 when she came to a meeting that I was a part of at the Boulder Valley School District (BVSD). There was a small group of concerned parents and community members that had started meeting to try and figure out how we could change the food and nutrition paradigm at BVSD. We had the ear of some administrators at the district who shared our desire and vision for a different food service program, but frankly the meetings were going nowhere. We all wanted basically the same things, but we left each meeting with less and less structure and no plan for how change was actually going to happen. Enter, Chef Ann.
One of the committee members had met Ann while they were in California and knew what she had done for the Berkley Public School District. This committee member asked if we could find some money to bring Ann out and have her talk to our group.
The day I met Ann I knew instantly why she had been successful in creating change while other districts across the country had (and still have) frustrated parents who gave up their crusade. Ann was different. She was direct, no games, no politics, and no giving up. “Feeding kids healthy food is not debatable,” I remember her saying and I knew then that it was no longer a choice, or a project that we could keep back-burnuring. As a group we had found our solution and our plan in in Ann. The district hired Ann on a contractual basis, then on a full-term basis, and now five years later the BVSD school food program is one of the best in the country…with salad bars in every school and a recent change to antibiotic and hormone free meat—that’s in a district with 55 schools! Oh and by they way, participation is UP since the pre-Ann days of highly processed heat-and-serve food, and BVSD runs a fiscally responsible program.
Ann and I had lunch one day after she had been in the district for a while. At the time, I was the Global Director of Partnerships for Whole Foods Market. I listened as Ann told me that she was inspired by the change that was happening at BVSD, but she was still frustrated by all of the other districts across the country that were serving less than stellar food. Of course, she had an idea—she wanted to take all of the knowledge that she had gained through transforming school lunch programs and open source it. She wanted to give it away for free so that the schools and districts that wanted to make a change, but didn’t know how, had the tools to do so. I was instantly sold and I wanted to help her make it happen.
Long story short, we presented the idea to all of the Whole Foods regions and they were just as on board as I was. And so began the first round of funding for The Lunch Box and the Food Family Farming Foundation (F3).
Like Ann’s journey, my path was changing too. After my third child was born, I decided to take some time off from working. I had been at Whole Foods for 11 years and worked very hard during the younger years of my first two children, so I quit my job and embraced motherhood…for about six months. Then Ann asked if would run the Foundation. I had promised my husband I would not consider work for minimum of 12 months, but Ann, as previously stated, can be pretty persuasive (a key skill in her ability to create change). So here I am, having been the Executive Director for the Foundation for just over a year now, and I’ve never been more excited about the work that I’m doing.
One thing that I felt very strongly about when I came aboard was that the name of the Foundation was not quite right. This foundation was born of Ann’s desire to help schools and to ensure that they had the tools to make change. Ann was missing from the F3 name, it was clear. The “Chef Ann Foundation” was an obvious choice, a fitting choice, and ultimately the choice we made. So the Chef Ann Foundation we now, and forevermore, are. Every time I say it, it reminds me of the strong, incredible woman who is not only my friend but also my inspiration; she doesn’t give up and she doesn’t give in.
As the Chef Ann Foundation celebrates our fifth anniversary this summer, we are so excited to acknowledge that our programming has reached over 1,792,080 children across the country. And thanks to a generous grant from The Colorado Health Foundation, we will be launching the next generation of The Lunch Box this August. Get ready for all the new information including expanded and updated content in procurement, management, salad bars, and breakfast. We have also partnered with Horizon/One Source, a popular k-12 food service software company, to build up our school recipe and menu planning section, and we are really excited that the Whole Kids Foundation has sponsored 50 new recipes that will launch with the new site.
There is so much more—We have been hard at work over the past year expanding our programming and developing tried and tested operational support materials to help make healthier school food an easier choice for schools.
We are at a pivotal time in our nation for school food reform. In true Chef Ann fashion, the Chef Ann Foundation is ready and excited to continue to move forward. Now more than ever we need to make our voices heard and do as Ann would do: not give up and not give in.
Read the blogpost: "The Future of School Food Means the Future Health of the Nation’s Children" (U.S. News & World Report)
Read the blogpost: "House Panel: Schools Can Opt Out of Nutrition Requirements" (U.S. News & World Report
Read the blogpost: "Congress' Attempt to Weaken School Nutrition Program" (U.S. News & World Report)
Read the blogpost: "Why Kids Are Eating Fewer School Meals and Wasting More" (U.S. News & World Report)
Read the blogpost: "The Sea Change in School Food" (U.S. News & World Report)
Read the blogpost: "Why We Need Professionals in Cafeterias, Not Just Classrooms" (U.S. News & World Report)
Read the blogpost: "Is the Fox Guarding the Hen House? Big Business in School Food" (U.S. News & World Report)