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Published:September 29th, 2006 07:13 EST
Judyth Piazza chats with Ann Cooper, Author of Lunch Lessons

Judyth Piazza chats with Ann Cooper, Author of Lunch Lessons

By Judyth Piazza CEO (Editor)

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 Berkley, 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 Berkley 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 Dangers 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).

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