chef ann foundation
Photo: Chef Ann Foundation Facebook

The Chef Ann Foundation (CAF) announces that five districts, including Franklin Special School District, have been selected as the fourth cohort of Get Schools Cooking, a three-year grant program that helps districts nationwide transform their school lunch programs to include healthy, nutritious meals.

Get Schools Cooking (GSC) is a nationally recognized comprehensive program designed to guide districts through the process of becoming a self-operated, sustainably-run, scratch-cook meal program, focusing on what CAF classifies as the five key areas of school food operations: food, finance, facilities, human resources, and marketing. After careful
review of applications from across the country, CAF, in partnership with Whole Kids Foundation, selected the following districts to add to the existing group of 15 districts working to create change and serve fresh, delicious meals to students:

● Beaufort County Schools, Washington, NC
● Franklin Special School District, Franklin, TN
● Manhattan-Ogden USD 383, Manhattan, KS
● South Madison Community School Corporation, Pendleton, IN
● Wisconsin Rapids Public Schools, Wisconsin Rapids, WI

“We are excited about the opportunity that the Get Schools Cooking grant will provide for us to look objectively at every aspect of our program and to help us develop a plan as we move to increase the amount of scratch cooking our schools provide,” said Robbin Cross, Child Nutrition Supervisor for Franklin Special School District. “The ultimate goal is for our
students to have healthy options with fresh, locally grown food prepared in our own kitchens by a knowledgeable staff. We know the Chef Ann Foundation will help us achieve this goal.”

The program kicked off on Feb. 26 with a workshop in Boulder, CO, where food service directors and other key team members from each district will engage in sessions about menu planning, financial modeling, and human resources.

They’ll also visit school kitchens and cafeterias in Boulder Valley School District, a leader in school food change.

“We are so proud to partner with Chef Ann Foundation to support this transformative work,” said Kim Herrington, Director of Programs and Finance for Whole Kids Foundation. “This comprehensive, multi-year program helps school districts evolve into scratch cooking by creating and implementing a custom plan for change.”

Over the course of the next 18 months, each district will go through an assessment of their meal program, resulting in a report and recommendations for change. This is followed by a presentation with district administration and strategic planning; virtual and onsite technical assistance; an additional $35,000 for purchases such as software and equipment;
and yearly evaluations.

CAF will continue its partnership with the Gretchen Swanson Center for Nutrition (GSCN) to evaluate each district’s progress in meeting their goals and addressing the recommendations from their assessment.

With years of research experience in childhood nutrition, GSCN will utilize both qualitative and quantitative methods as part of their formal evaluation process. A key element of GSCN’s evaluation of the program is a thorough review of the recommendations from the CAF Assessment, which aim to strengthen the nutrition department with regard to the
aforementioned five key areas of school food operations.

According to GSCN, evaluated districts in previous cohorts have seen increases in meal participation, as well as more effective use of tracking mechanisms and further implementation of breakfast in the classroom—which staff conveyed has improved classroom behavior and increased revenue for the nutrition department.

Through the GSC program, previous cohorts have also reported positive menu and ingredient changes, including one district that has since moved to approximately 60% scratch-cooked menu items. Districts continue to eliminate highly processed foods and introduce new recipes using whole fruits and vegetables. They are also adding raw proteins like beef and chicken to their menus, rather than processed chicken nuggets and heavily refined hot dogs. School kitchens are now equipped with salad bars, food processors, specialty ovens and more, and staff are receiving the training they need for their programs to succeed.