Chef Ann Cooper’s Boulder District Seeks Donations for School Food Program

by Bettina Elias Siegel on December 8, 2010

I noted today that Chef Ann Cooper posted on her Facebook page a request for donations to keep her innovative school food program, the School Food Project, afloat in the Boulder Valley School District.

This article from a local Boulder, CO paper discusses the newly-launched fundraising campaign, and points up the very issue we’ve been talking about so much in recent weeks here on TLT: namely, can a district offer the kind of healthful food that Chef Ann champions without extra funding (over and above what the USDA reimburses schools)?

The article makes clear that, at least in this case, the answer is no.  The Boulder program has relied on outside (community-raised) funding from the start, and the current campaign seeks $150,000 to be used alongside a $100,000 matching grant from a private foundation.

Ed Bruske (The Slow Cook) has written extensively about Boulder, if you’d like to learn more about the program.  And if you’re interested in supporting the School Food Project, donations may be made here.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Ed Bruske December 8, 2010 at 7:50 pm

Gosh, Bettina, if a foundation were offering you a $100,000 matching grant, wouldn’t you be looking for ways to get it?

Federal reimbursements don’t pay for capital outlays. They’re for operating expenses. As the article explains, the money in question here is to repay the school district for equipment purchases. You can’t make the switch from re-heating processed convenience foods to preparing meals from whole ingredients without kitchen equipment. For a district this size, the amounts are pretty small.

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bettina elias siegel December 9, 2010 at 7:56 am

Ed – Wasn’t in any way disparaging the fundraising efforts — indeed, I provide a link for contributions in the post. But it would be highly irresponsible of me, as a provider of information regarding school food reform to my readership, to not point out that Chef Ann’s remarkable efforts (which you’ve chronicled so well, btw) require funding. To not make this point might lead readers to go to their school district’s food service providers and say, “Hey, we want what Chef Ann’s doing in Boulder! Why can’t you do it, too?” without having critical facts at hand. But I very much hope that Ann succeeds in raising the money and getting the matching grant. And to answer your question, of course I’d move heaven and earth to take advantage of such a grant here in Houston. So if any beneficent donors are out there reading this — HINT HINT. :-) – Bettina

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jenna Food w/ Kid Appeal December 9, 2010 at 10:51 am

this is unrelated to food preparation equipment funding, but today i asked our dietitian what would happen to their budget if 10% more kids (who are currently participating) chose fruit and vegetables off the line (instead of not taking them). i was told each F/V serving represents an additional .20 per meal (assuming it’s not bonus commodity). She said each penny of increased food costs was equivalent to a 60K cost increase district wide (spring branch ISD). I’m curious how our food service group will be able to maintain their budget if more kids do start participating in fruits and vegetables. my take-away was, if number of kids served remains the same, but more kids take fruits and veg, the budget might break.

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Dana Woldow December 9, 2010 at 11:46 am

Have you accounted for the amount of fruit and veg which are currently ending up in the trash at the end of the meal period because students didn’t take them? Your district is probably already paying a fair amount of money for food which is left behind on the line at the end of the day, and much of it can’t be held for another day, especially cut veggies. So you might be able to accommodate some or all of that hypothetical 10% increase just by using up what is already being provided.

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jenna Food w/ Kid Appeal December 9, 2010 at 12:18 pm

that makes sense dana, but wouldn’t there still be some left over waste regardless of what the participation was? if demand went up, they would cut/offer more, and still have the same “extra” unless the f/v participation “prediction” became more accurate?

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Dana Woldow December 9, 2010 at 12:37 pm

I guess it depends on how much is being wasted now.
However, at a certain point, if your school food service top folks are taking the attitude that they can’t afford to provide enough fresh fruits and veggies to meet student demand, parents and other advocates will need to push back. The school meal program is supposed to be about good nutrition for the kids; fresh produce is the very definition of good nutrition. Let them cut something else if necessary but not fresh produce!

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