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Chef Takes Lunch Crusade National

Chef Takes Lunch Crusade National

Monica Eng | Chicago Tribune

As students get back to work in classrooms, Congress is rolling up its sleeves to debate new rules involving the Child Nutrition Act, which sets standards for 30 million school lunches a day and is scheduled to expire later this year. Chef Ann Cooper, who famously transformed Berkeley, Calif., schools lunches over four years, headed to Capitol Hill this month to lobby for better food. But she also wants to share her secrets — recipes, food-buying tips and strategies to get kids to eat well — with the rest of the nation.

So this month, in partnership with Whole Foods, Cooper launched the Lunch Box, ( a site with resources for parents, school administrators and cooks on how to make lunch healthier.

We talked to her about the project and more in a recent interview.

Q: What are your hopes for the Lunch Box?

AMy hope, my goal and dream is that through the Lunch Box, we’ll be providing tools, menus, recipes, nutritional guidelines, financial guidelines, education and marketing tools and resources for parents, educators, administrators and people in nutritional services. And I hope that little by little, we can transform school food all across our nation from highly processed food that’s making our kids sick to really good healthy food, mostly made from scratch and regionally sourced.

Q: These sound like great resources, but school districts also say they need more money. How is that going to happen?

AIt’s so clear we need more funding, but it’s not just funding. You’ve got to raise the guidelines too.

Because if you just throw more money at it without new guidelines, we’re just going to have a better chicken nugget, and we don’t need a better chicken nugget.

[By visiting Washington], I hope we can bring visibility to the topic and start to change policy, and I’m optimistic about the new administration. The last time a president talked about school lunch, it was Reagan calling ketchup a vegetable. But Obama actually talked about school lunch and health in the same sentence.