Nonprofits  March 9, 2023

Chef Ann Foundation selects cohort for Get Schools Cooking program

BOULDER — Chef Ann Foundation has chosen seven districts from across the country as grantees for the fifth Cohort of its Get Schools Cooking program.

Get Schools Cooking provides an intensive three-year assessment and strategic-planning program that provides public K-12 schools with the operational knowledge, resources, and leadership development to transition from a heat-and-serve model to a sustainable, scratch-cook operational model centered around fresh, whole food.

This year, districts from Alaska, Maine, Montana, Texas, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin will be represented in the fifth cohort.

Selected districts include Dillingham City School District in Alaska, Lewiston Public Schools in Maine, Hardin Public Schools in Montana, Brownsville Independent School District in Texas, Windham Central Supervisory Union in Vermont, Ellensburg School District in Washington, and Howard-Suamico School District in Wisconsin.

“We are in the middle of a very important shift surrounding school food in our country,” Mara Fleishman, CEO of Chef Ann Foundation, said in a prepared statement. “[Recently], the USDA proposed new updates to the school nutrition standards, limiting added sugar, reducing sodium limits, and proposing new standards surrounding whole grain and milk. Universally, we are beginning to recognize the incredible importance and long-term physical and mental benefits of a healthy, scratch-cooked diet for our kids. One of the biggest roadblocks in providing healthy and delicious meals in schools is the lack of resources and knowledge. We are proud to offer our Get Schools Cooking Program to provide districts with the aid they need to transition their school food operations to this healthy, scratch-cooked model.”

 Once selected for Get Schools Cooking, districts receive the following: 

  • Onsite assessment to identify barriers and actionable recommendations in five key areas of school food service: Food, Finance, Facilities, Human Resources and Marketing.
  • Technical assistance through on-site and one-on-one virtual technical assistance support in areas including but not limited to culinary skills, kitchen efficiency, budget development, staffing plan, recipe development and marketing to support the shift from a heat-and-serve to a scratch cooking model.
  • School Food Institute courses focusing on topics including school food procurement, recipes and menu development and salad bars in schools. Each course meets USDA professional standards learning objectives.
  • Strategic planning to create a structured framework to overcome identified barriers and how to achieve recommended outcomes.
  • System improvements grants to provide districts the resources necessary to transition to a scratch cooking operational model.
  • Peer-to-peer support sessions for districts to discuss current school food topics, share information and keep up to date with what other districts are doing across the cohort.

After assessment, districts participate in qualitative interviews and submit current district food service data to measure their progress in the program. The Chef Ann Foundation partners with the Gretchen Swanson Center for Nutrition to complete a comprehensive evaluation of the healthy school food environment, culminating in a Healthy Meal Score and change in that score as a result of their program participation. Additionally, the Chef Ann Foundation partners with the Good Food Purchasing Program and will generate a procurement assessment to gauge the connection between scratch cooking and values-based procurement.

The Chef Ann Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit working to ensure that school food professionals have the resources, funding and support they need to provide fresh, healthy, delicious, scratch cooked meals that support the health of children.

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