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I grew up with a school lunch lady – Florence Krietenstein – who is about to turn 110 years young. She knew – and knows – how to cook and how to translate ideas into healthy school meals. Everything (mostly) was made from scratch. It was real food, at a minimum. The average lunch lady today looks nothing like Florence.

Did you know?

For the first time in two generations, America’s children have a shorter life expectancy than their parents. Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years. Currently, one in three of our nation’s children are overweight or obese. According to USDA, only 2% of children in the U.S. eat enough fruits and vegetables, and nearly a third are on track to contract Type II diabetes.


Chef Ann Cooper and Jamie Oliver for #realschoolfood

About five years ago, I was mesmerized by a primetime series featuring Britain’s Jamie Oliver, fka the Naked Chef. He was on a jag to bring healthy food to school children and he targeted the “most unhealthy city in America”, Huntington, West Virginia. If you can find the series, please watch it. If you want the TED talk version, it’s available. Even this short version highlights the Edwards family with a freezer full of empty calories – the total of a family’s weekly consumption – pizza, corndogs, pancakes, and worse – all stacked high on the kitchen table and counters. We are now in the third generation that has not learned to cook at home and resorts to nutritionally zero’d frozen food. And the school feeding program just exacerbates the problem. Many of these meals are processed, heat-and-serve items. The fast food industry makes matters worse by spending more than $5 million every day marketing unhealthy foods to children. 98% of food advertisements viewed by children are for processed products that are high in fat, sugar or sodium.

So what to do??? According to Jamie Oliver, “Over 30 million kids in the US eat school lunch every day – and they’re at school for more than ten years of their formative lives. That’s a massive opportunity to have a really positive impact on their wellbeing, setting them up for healthier, happier lives…” My friend Ann Cooper – aka The Renegade Lunch Lady – reached out recently to let me know she has joined forces with Jamie and launched a campaign through her foundation to turn the tide on this dire situation. Chef Ann has been a constant champion of school food reform as an important avenue through which to improve childhood nutrition. Chef Ann aims to raise both awareness and funds for this national epidemic.  Imagine the impact if schools served real food that was cooked with healthy, nourishing ingredients?


Al Roker and Alice Waters for #Realschoolfood

#RealSchoolFood is a social media campaign to raise awareness for the need for real, scratch-cooked food at school.  According to Chef Ann, “I envision a time, soon, when being a chef working to feed children fresh, delicious, and nourishing food will no longer be considered renegade.”

How To Be Part of #RealSchoolFood

Thanks to Mamma Chia, every time you post using ‘#realschoolfood’, $1 will be donated towards developing healthy school food recipes.

Mary Sue Milliken, Lake Bell and Jesse L. Martin for #realschoolfood

All you have to do is take a photo of yourself holding up a sign that says “#realschoolfood” and post it publicly to your social media timelines (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) with a caption like this:

It’s time schools stopped serving highly processed, heat and serve food. I support #realschoolfood and you can too. Show your support by posting a selfie like mine. realschoolfood.org (If you’d like to use a different caption, just remember to include the #realschoolfood hashtag.)


Friends join the campaign for #RealSchoolFood

Show your support for #realschoolfood by posting a selfie like I did, and Mamma Chia will donate $1 towards developing healthy school food recipes!

Happy Birthday, Florence! Thank you for all those hundreds of thousands of healthy meals.


Katy Keck for #RealSchoolFood

What are you waiting for – hold up that sign and tweet it today!! This not only raises awareness but critically needed funds as well!!!

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