What’s Cooking in California? Healthy school food and workforce development

If it’s been a while since you’ve set foot in a school cafeteria, you might not know that many school kitchens are not really kitchens at all. They are more like “heat & serve” stations serving up processed food and empty calories to children across the country, exacerbating a myriad of long-term nutritional issues, such as obesity and diabetes.

That’s why the Chef Ann Foundation (CAF) was founded over ten years ago. Chef Ann Cooper had a vision of a comprehensive, national organization that could help schools make a change and serve fresh, healthy food. Today, CAF is recognized as the foremost expert in self-operated, cook from scratch school food operations, and their impressive impact numbers (below) speak for themselves.

 Chef Ann Foundation’s Impact by the Numbers


CAF created the first-ever federally registered apprenticeship programs and workforce learning series for scratch-cooked school food operators, known as the Healthy School Food Pathway (HSFP) Program. HSFP is being implemented as a three-year pilot program, with the Pre-Apprenticeship and Apprenticeship partnering with California Community Colleges, and a national Fellowship to encourage workforce development for healthy school food operators at all career levels.

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From California Dreaming to California Cooking

California became one of the first states in the country to enact universal school meals. In the same budget, the state chose to make significant investments through farm to school grants, school kitchen infrastructure upgrades, climate smart agriculture, workforce development, and many other areas of innovation.


First Partner of California Jennifer Siebel Newsom, Senator Nancy Skinner, Representative Cecilia Aguiar-Curry and 23 other school food supporters visited the Napa Valley Unified School District (NVUSD)'s Central Kitchen. The event celebrated the Healthy School Food Pathway Program, California's investment in school nutrition, and CAF’s partnership with Napa's Operative for School Food Health at NVUSD.


Training the Next Generation of School Food Leaders

The Healthy School Food Pathway program supports workforce readiness to expand the pipeline for the next generation of school food leaders. From entry-level positions through school food management, these professionals will impact millions of children with greater access to fresh, healthy food. Across 1,037 California public school districts, skilled culinary professionals will support transformative change from within the school food system.

Next generation life insurance that supports healthy food systems.

As CAF continues to grow the California program, with important funding from Governor Newsom and the California State Legislature, CAF is looking forward to expanding the Healthy School Food Pathway program to other states. 

Learn more about the positive impact of the Healthy School Food Pathway program.

The Practical Activist Blog is created by Bluestone Life, life insurance for family, community and planet. Learn how a policy from Bluestone supports healthy food in schools across America by supporting nonprofits like the Chef Ann Foundation.  If you’re an advocate for healthy food in schools, put your policy to work with Bluestone.


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