Calls for Public to Join 'School Lunch Revolution' Aimed at Transforming School Menus Across United States Partners Travel to Washington, D.C., to Raise Awareness, Seek Changes to the National School Lunch Program
Whole Foods Market (Nasdaq: WFMI), a leader in natural and organic foods, and Chef Ann Cooper, the nation's "Renegade Lunch Lady," have joined forces to transform lunch in schools across the country with the "School Lunch Revolution" campaign. This national effort, which launches during the back-to-school season, aims to enable schools to revolutionize and improve the way children eat. The free, first-of-its-kind Lunch Box Web site - thelunchbox.org - provides the necessary resources for food service directors to make tangible changes in their cafeteria menus.
"It is past time for a wake-up call! Look at what our children are being offered at school: processed foods high in fat, junk food, soft drinks loaded with sugar...the list goes on. We are in the throes of a public health time bomb," said Chef Ann Cooper, author of "Lunch Lessons" and "Bitter Harvest" and founder of the F3: Food Family Farming Foundation whose mission is to provide every child in America with healthy and delicious fresh food at school. "This is THE social justice issue of our time, and schools have NO money to help solve the problem," said Cooper. "I felt strongly about partnering with Whole Foods Market to help tackle this issue because their customers have a successful track record of rallying around a cause and making a real difference."
Chef Ann Cooper's Lunch Box Web site is the most comprehensive, easily accessible and FREE set of resources available to help schools replace frozen processed foods with fresh, natural, made-from-scratch foods in a realistic, cost-effective manner. Tools include:
- Recipes that work for schools of all size and can be nutritionally analyzed, tested and costed
- Resources for procuring real, natural foods, regionally and locally, from smaller vendors to create local food economies
- Training videos that cover topics ranging from cooking techniques to food safety
- Educational tools for parents and children
- Community activism tools helping any single person, group or task force to initiate change in a school system
"One in three children born in the year 2000 will have diabetes, and 30 percent of them are overweight, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). The CDC also says that the cost of treating diabetes in the United States is estimated at $174 billion each year," said Cooper. "The reality is we're going to pay now or pay later with rising health costs and poor health."
More than 30 million children eat a school lunch that is federally funded through the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) every day. On average, only 90 cents per lunch is spent on food. That, combined with free commodity foods, like cheese and ground beef, from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Food Distribution Program and many children are eating mostly frozen, processed, packaged foods. With no national standardized limit on sugar or other ingredients like artificial colors, flavors or preservatives, it is not uncommon to find hamburgers, French fries chocolate milk and popsicles offered as a typical school lunch.
"If you look at the entire picture, serving healthy food doesn't have to cost more for schools. Research from the USDA and CDC has shown that switching to healthier options has the potential to increase school lunchroom revenue," said Cooper. "I'm confident that with the right tools schools can learn how to provide more whole, fresh foods menus that nourish our children."
The Lunch Box will be supported in part by a donation from Whole Foods Market and a School Lunch Revolution donation drive at check-out stands in Whole Foods Market stores, and at wholefoodsmarket.com/schoollunchrevolution now through September.
Walter Robb, co-president and COO of Whole Foods Market, and Cooper will take the School Lunch Revolution message to Washington, D.C., to create public awareness and ask lawmakers to do their part to support stronger nutritional requirements and adequate funding for the National School Lunch Program.
While in D.C., Cooper will visit the Whole Foods Market store at Tenley Circle and lecture on the subject of healthy school lunches. She will also visit Chicago, Atlanta, and Houston in September, joining community leaders to talk about the importance of healthy lunches and the free Lunch Box Web site, with the hope of eliciting change on a local level.
"With proper nutrition playing such a critical role in improving a child's behavior, school performance, and overall cognitive development, Whole Foods Market has been searching for the next important way to do our part to improve children's diets. Even in this time of economic challenge, healthy choices for your family always make sense. Our goal is to raise awareness, engage our shoppers and give schools easy access to the tools they need to serve fresher, healthier meals," said Robb, whose passion and purpose for more than 30 years has been to offer natural and organic foods and encourage healthful eating. "Chef Ann Cooper is passionate, tenacious and committed to improving nutrition for school-age children and we are delighted to be working with her to present this online resource to schools."
To further raise awareness and encourage Americans to join in, the Whole Foods Market Web site will feature:
- A series of six short educational videos;
- A live chat with Chef Cooper on Aug. 28 at 3p.m. CDT;
- A video contest for PTO/PTA organizations, with the winner receiving a visit from Chef Ann; and
- Solutions for affordable, healthy lunches.
In addition, Whole Foods Market's in-store value guide, The Whole Deal, will offer menus, recipes and coupons.
About Whole Foods Market(R)
Founded in 1980 in Austin, Texas, Whole Foods Market (www.wholefoodsmarket.com), a leader in the natural and organic foods industry and America's first national certified organic grocer, was named "America's Healthiest Grocery Store" in 2008 by Health magazine. The Whole Foods Market motto, "Whole Foods, Whole People, Whole Planet"(TM) captures the company's mission to find success in customer satisfaction and wellness, employee excellence and happiness, enhanced shareholder value, community support and environmental improvement. Thanks to its more than 50,000 Team Members, Whole Foods Market has been ranked as one of the "100 Best Companies to Work For" in America by FORTUNE magazine for 12 consecutive years. In fiscal year 2008, the company had sales of $8 billion and currently has more than 275 stores in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Whole Foods Market, Fresh & Wild(TM), and Harry's Farmers Market(R) are trademarks owned by Whole Foods Market IP, LP. Wild Oats(R) and Capers Community Market(TM) are trademarks owned by Wild Marks, Inc.
About Chef Ann Cooper: Meet the Leader of the School Lunch Revolution
Chef Ann Cooper, aka, "The Renegade Lunch Lady" and author of Lunch Lessons: Changing the Way We Feed Our Children, is on a mission to ensure that every child in America receives healthy, delicious food every day in school. Her work over the past decade has already transformed the school lunchroom experience for tens of thousands of children. She will share her methodology and tools through The Lunch Box, which has the power to help all schools to make simple, yet revolutionary changes to their lunch programs. Chef Ann Cooper is currently serving as the Interim Nutrition Director for the Boulder Valley School District and is the former Director of Nutrition Services for the Berkeley Unified School district. She is the author of four books and is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park with more than 30 years working in the culinary world.
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