Chef Ann Cooper is an internationally recognized author, chef, educator, public speaker, and advocate of healthy food for all children. In a nation where kids are born with shorter estimated life expectancies than their parents due to diet-related disease, Chef Ann has been a constant champion of school food reform as an important avenue through which to improve childhood nutrition.
In 2009, Chef Ann founded the Food Family Farming Foundation (now the Chef Ann Foundation), a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to helping schools take action so that every child has daily access to fresh, healthy food. CAF programs include Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools, Project Produce, Parent Advocacy Initiative, Healthy Breakfast for Kids, as well as The Lunch Box, an online resource that provides free step-by-step guides, tools, and recipes to help schools improve their food programs.
Also known as the “Renegade Lunch Lady,“ Chef Ann serves as Director of Food Services for Boulder Valley School District in Boulder, Colorado, and is Partner of Lunch Lessons, LLC, a consultancy for school districts going through large-scale food change. She also writes a monthly blog for U.S. News & World Report and performs regular Speaking Engagements throughout the country. Visit our Multimedia Content page to view some of Ann’s notable lectures, including her four TED Talks.
I envision a time, soon, when being a chef working to feed children fresh, delicious, and nourishing food will no longer be considered renegade.”
– Chef Ann Cooper
A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Ann has 40 years of experience as a chef, including 17 years in school food programs. Her books Bitter Harvest and Lunch Lessons: Changing the Way We Feed Our Children have made her a leading advocate for safe, sustainable food. To raise further awareness about the value of healthy food systems, Chef Ann has held several advisory positions:
Executive committee member, Chefs Collaborative
Fellow, W.K. Kellogg Foundation Food & Society Policy
Board member, USDA’s National Organic Standards Board (by congressional appointment)
Member, Google Innovation Lab for Food Experiences
President and board member, Women’s Chefs and Restaurateurs
President, American Culinary Federation of Central Vermont
Advisory Board Member, Real Food for Kids
Chef Ann has also been honored by the National Resources Defense Council, awarded an honorary doctorate from SUNY Cobleskill for her work on sustainable agriculture, and received IACP’s 2012 Humanitarian of the Year award. Named one of the “Influential 20” by Food Service Director Magazine and one of the top 15 Crusaders for Health in the Food Industry by Greatist.com, Ann has also received the Women Chefs and Restaurateurs’ Community Service Award and a Special Inspirational Award from the Susan B. Komen Foundation. In 2016, she was named “One of the Top 50 Food Activists” by the Academy of Culinary Nutrition.
Chef Beth Collins has been supporting school district change through assessments, workshops, interim leadership roles since 2006. Driven by a passion for local foods and a strong interest in food system change, Beth started her culinary career in New York City in 1995, learning her craft from Chefs Lidia Bastianich and Michel Nishan before heading to East Hampton, NY in 2000 to feed students simply prepared, fresh, locally grown food at the Ross School with Chef Ann Cooper. Their shared experience at the Ross School led Beth and Ann into the public sector where they have worked to support public school districts in transitioning ready-to-heat food programs to sustainable scratch-cooked systems bringing fresh, real food to all kids in schools.
Beth and Ann extended their commitment to improving school food in 2009 by establishing the establishment of the Chef Ann Foundation,formerly known as Food Family Farming Foundation and its programs; the Lunch Box, Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools, Project Produce and its newest program, School Food Support Initiative. Beth, along with Chef Ann, is the lead developer of The Lunch Box. She served as CAF’s executive director from 2010 to 2013 and CAF’s director of operations until 2017. Beth works with districts and organizations from coast to coast from her home base in Traverse City, Michigan.