The Franklin Special School District is one of five districts from across the nation that have been selected for the Chef Ann Foundation’s fourth cohort of Get Schools Cooking, a three-year grant program that helps districts transform their school lunch programs to include healthy, nutritious meals.
Get Schools Cooking (GSC) is a nationally recognized comprehensive program designed to guide districts through the process of becoming a self-operated, sustainably run, scratch-cook meal program, focusing on what the Chef Ann Foundation classifies as the five key areas of school food operations: food, finance, facilities, human resources and marketing.
After reviewing applications from across the country, CAF, in partnership with Whole Kids Foundation, selected FSSD and the following districts to add to the existing group of 15 districts working to create change and serve fresh, delicious meals to students:
- Beaufort County Schools, Washington, North Carolina
- Manhattan-Ogden USD 383, Manhattan, Kansas
- South Madison Community School Corporation, Pendleton, Indiana
- Wisconsin Rapids Public Schools, Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin
“We are excited about the opportunity that the Get Schools Cooking grant will provide for us to look objectively at every aspect of our program and to help us develop a plan as we move to increase the amount of scratch cooking our schools provide,” said Robbin Cross, Child Nutrition supervisor for Franklin Special School District.
“The ultimate goal is for our students to have healthy options with fresh, locally grown food prepared in our own kitchens by a knowledgeable staff. We know the Chef Ann Foundation will help us achieve this goal.”
The program kicked off the last week of February with a workshop in Boulder, Colo., where food service directors and other key team members from each district were to engage in sessions about menu planning, financial modeling and human resources. They were also visiting school kitchens and cafeterias in Boulder Valley School District, a leader in school food change.
Over the course of the next 18 months, each district will go through an assessment of their meal program, resulting in a report and recommendations for change. This is followed by a presentation with district administration and strategic planning; virtual and onsite technical assistance; an additional $35,000 for purchases such as software and equipment; and yearly evaluations.
“This is an opportunity for districts to take a ‘deep-dive’ in to all of their processes, programs, finances and management, with the goal of overall improvement of their system,” said Chef Ann Cooper, CAF founder and president of the board. “Get Schools Cooking can transform a district and set them on the path towards a fully scratch-cook program.”
CAF will continue its partnership with the Gretchen Swanson Center for Nutrition (GSCN) to evaluate each district's progress in meeting their goals and addressing the recommendations from their assessment.
With years of research experience in childhood nutrition, GSCN will utilize both qualitative and quantitative methods as part of their formal evaluation process. A key element of GSCN’s evaluation of the program is a thorough review of the recommendations from the CAF Assessment, which aim to strengthen the nutrition department with regard to the aforementioned five key areas of school food operations.
According to GSCN, evaluated districts in previous cohorts have seen increases in meal participation, as well as more effective use of tracking mechanisms and further implementation of breakfast in the classroom — which staff conveyed has improved classroom behavior and increased revenue for the nutrition department.
Through the GSC program, previous cohorts have also reported positive menu and ingredient changes, including one district that has since moved to approximately 60% scratch-cooked menu items. Districts continue to eliminate highly processed foods and introduce new recipes using whole fruits and vegetables.
They are also adding raw proteins like beef and chicken to their menus, rather than processed chicken nuggets and heavily refined hot dogs. School kitchens are now equipped with salad bars, food processors, specialty ovens and more, and staff are receiving the training they need for their programs to succeed.