The Case For School Kitchens

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BY Chef Ann Cooper

localfoodallianceOne of my favorite farmers, Joel Salatin, often says if we want to save agriculture and the health of our country, then we need to “find our kitchens” again. I’d like to take that thought one step further and say that if we want to save our children’s health, we need to find school kitchens again.

I believe that the way toward healthier school food is cooking, and to do that we must find, build or rebuild school food infrastructure – the kitchens.

During the past 17 years of working in schools, I have accomplished this goal in different ways. I’ve managed schools cooking on their own and districts with regional kitchens that cook for many schools. And now I’m in the process of designing and building one central kitchen for Boulder Valley School District, which will serve over 13,000 meals per day for 52 locations. In my mind, cooking in a centralized environment is the most efficient and cost-effective model yet.

I’m often told that it’s counterintuitive to think that better food can be had in a centralized production model. Many people have this idyllic vision of lunch ladies in their child’s school that cook just for their child. As bucolic and appealing as that vision might be, the reality of hundreds, if not thousands or tens of thousands of meals served every day, follows a much different paradigm.

There is no “one way” to feed students in schools, but I believe that there are realistic steps that school districts can take to make the best possible food in the most cost-effective and efficient manner.

Come hear Chef Ann talk school food on Wednesday, Oct. 26, at Community School in Sun Valley. Hosted by Wood River Community YMCA and Roy A. Hunt Foundation, this FREE event starts at 7 p.m. (doors open at 6:30 p.m.).

Local Food Alliance is a nonprofit whose mission is to create a vibrant local food system in the Wood River Valley. For more information, visit www.localfoodalliance.org.

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