Chef Ann Cooper is a well-known author, chef and educator. An advocate for better food for all children, she has been a chef for more than 30 years, with over 15 of those in service to youth in school food programs. She is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, and is known as the “Renegade Lunch Lady.” Previously, Cooper was awarded a Kellogg Food and Society Policy fellowship. 


Chef Ann (@chefannc) pens an important opinion piece for U.S. News & World Report. In it, she addresses those parents who – disappointed with the options that schools offer – simply opt out, and instead pack their children’s lunches.

Cooper argues that “One of the best ways to help district nutrition programs as they transition to healthier food is to buy school lunch for your children.”

She explains:


“I understand and support parents who insist their children eat healthfully and responsibly. My dream is a nation in which all food – especially school food – is nourishing, safe and sustainably produced. And I strongly believe that parents should be engaged in their children’s diets, helping them learn to love fresh, delicious, nutrient-rich foods. But when a parent’s solution is to opt out of school food and not look back, I feel the loss keenly. There goes one potential change-maker who can make a real difference in his or her community.

Many of these same parents acknowledge the necessity of school food programs for children who would otherwise go hungry. But I think they’re missing something important. To implicitly state that school lunch is necessary for poor children, but a terrible choice for families that can afford better is emblematic of the social justice issues surrounding school food.

Of the over 30 million children who eat school lunch every day, more than 71.5 percent come from disadvantaged families. Many of these children come from the 14.3 percent of households that experienced food insecurity in 2013.”


There’s a strong logic to Cooper’s argument. She points out when more families take part in a school lunch program, school districts “can achieve economies of scale, which means they can buy better quality food at lower prices because they buy more of it.”

If you’re a parent reading this who longs to improve school lunches, click here to access a parent advocacy toolkit developed by Chef Ann Cooper’s Foundation.

An important read.


Related Links:

Retired Lt. General: childhood obesity is a serious national security issue

School lunch battle creates unlikely alliances

Low-income students now a majority in U.S. public schools