We are so honored to have the opportunity to visit with Ann Cooper, one of the greatest culinary voices in bringing healthy meals to schools!
In this segment from Organic Living with the Hippy Gourmet we meet up with Ann at the Berkeley Public School cafeteria kitchen, at 5:30 in the morning on an average school day, where she has already been there for over an hour preparing fresh meals for thousands of kids.
Simply put, Ann Cooper is an absolute saint who has gone toe-to-toe with the giant processed food companies that provide packaged school lunches, throwing them out of the school system and replacing them with hand-made, organic and locally produced ingredients!
The removal of processed foods and high-fructose corn syrup has already paid off for the urban Berkeley School system, with improved grades, improved behavior and attendance, decreased A.D.D. and A.D.H.D, and the reduction of cases of Type 2 diabetes! Most of all, the kids really love the food and flock to the salad bars that are loaded with local and regional fresh fruits and vegetables.
Ann Cooper is on a mission, and when you get her book "LunchLessons" (www.LunchLessons.org) you will understand that what she's doing in Berkeley, California is in fact transferable to any and all schools around the country and world.
Ann wakes up at 3:30am each and every day of the week and starts preparing breakfasts for the less fortunate children in the community who can't otherwise afford a healthy breakfast. Ann is simultaneously overseeing and participating in the preparation of the lunch menu, feeding 17 large cafeterias and thousands of school children and faculty. Off to afternoon meetings and her regular stop at the local farmer's market where Ann actually buys the bulk of her organic produce for the school kids, she returns to the kitchen to prepare afternoon snacks and light dinners again for those children who's only meal each day are what they get at school.
On top of all of this, Ann Cooper creates seasonal menus for the children to take home to their parents in the form of calendars. The meal plans map out what will be offered each day for school lunches depending on the season and available ingredients. Ann also teaches children from K-12 how to plant, grow and cultivate their own food in school gardens, as well as cooking and nutrition classes. If all of that isn't enough, Ann Cooper travels often to Washington to push for greater legislation in budgeting for healthy nutrition in public schools.
If there could be a Nobel Prize for visionary chefs who are making a difference for a better world, then Ann Cooper certainly gets our vote for this!