Known as the “Renegade Lunch Lady,” Chef Ann Cooper, an author, speaker, educator and advocate for healthy food for children, visited Bellingham in January 2016 to give a public presentation at the Mount Baker Theatre and to share her thoughts on school lunch reform with students and staff in Bellingham Public Schools.
Chef Ann’s presentation at the Mount Baker Theatre was followed by a panel discussion and audience questions. The panel included Mark Dalton, food services director of Bellingham Public Schools; Mauri Ingram, president and CEO of the Whatcom Community Foundation; Tricia Kovacs, Farm-to-School manager in the Washington State Department of Agriculture; and Cheryl Thornton of Cloud Mountain Farms.
While visiting, Chef Ann visited Kulshan Middle School during a schoolwide assembly and took thoughtful questions from the students. After the KMS assembly, she visited Harvest of the Month and the kitchen at Wade King Elementary and later a professional development meeting for all food services staff.
Chef Ann currently serves as director of food services for the Boulder Valley School District in Boulder, Colo. and is a partner in Lunch Lessons, a consultancy for school districts going through large-scale change in food services. She is a champion of school food reform as a way to address the nutritional needs of children and founded the Chef Ann Foundation (formerly the Food Family Farming Foundation) in 2009.
Chef Ann and members of her Lunch Lessons team have been working with staff in Bellingham Public Schools since fall 2015 on a new vision for food services. This consultation will result in a plan that helps the district move toward a central kitchen and that improves the quality and nutritional content of meals served in school cafeterias.
Special thanks to the Sustainable Whatcom Fund of the Whatcom Community Foundation for sponsoring Chef Ann’s visit and other food service visioning in Bellingham Public Schools and our community.