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Lunch Lessons

Lunch Lessons

The renegade lunch lady, Chef Ann, is changing the way our kids eat.

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Chef Ann is on a serious and important mission. She wants to change the way our children eat. And for good reason, they are growing by leaps and bounds... just in the wrong ways. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that 35 percent of our children are overweight, which means that children born in the year 2000 will be the first in our nation's history to die at a younger age than their parents. If that doesn't scream "emergency!", nothing does.

Chef Ann Cooper proudly considers herself the Renegade Lunch Lady. And she's gotten recognition in the press for her noble mission. Currently, Chef Ann is the director of nutrition services for the Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD), improving meals at 16 public schools with a population of more than 9,000 students.

There is plenty of information for the advocacy of improving child nutrition on Chef Ann's Lunch Lessons website. There are more than 70 Lunch Lessons. The crux of her argument is advocating organic foods grown locally as opposed to eating foods that travel across the country, loaded with preservatives. Her latest book, Lunch Lessons: Changing the Way We Feed Our Children, is filled with advise and strategies for parents and school administrators alike to turn the unhealthy tide of child obesity. The forward is written by the beloved doctor and author Mehmet Oz, known for his appearances on Oprah and the YOU on a Diet.

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  • Most of the information provided online is free
  • Thorough and informative Web site
  • Encourages healthy diets for children
  • Easily implemented in your home
  • Vegetarian friendly
  • Diabetic friendly
  • Promotes organic, locally-grown foods
  • Limits sugar, fat and red meat
  • Calorie consumption guidance
  • Could use more guidance for fitness and exercise
  • Healthier school lunch programs are not available nationwide

Many recipes are given in Ann's book, Lunch Lessons: Changing the Way We Feed Our Children, but there are a few examples on her website, LunchLessonsorg. They include a Breakfast Burrito, Asian Chicken Salad with Miso Dressing, and Apple Date Bars for a snack. That sounds a whole lot tastier than the processed junk our kids are getting in school now.

Chef Ann provides guidance for caloric intake for children, based on age and gender.

  • 1600/day for children 2-6 years old, sedentary women, older adults
  • 2200/day for children 6+ years old, teenage girls, active women and sedentary men
  • 2800/day for teenage boys and active men

According to Chef Ann's Lunch Lessons, children should aim to eat the following each day. Each number of servings will vary according to the age of the children and teenagers.

  • Water, 8 glasses/day
  • Whole grains, 4-9 servings/day
  • Vegetables, 4-9 servings/day
  • Fruits, 3-5 servings/day
  • Calcium, 2-3 servings/day
  • Lean protein, 2-3 servings/day
  • Healthy fats, 3-4 servings/day (found in olive oil, nuts and legumes)

Red meat should only be eaten 2-3 times per week, and this also applies to processed meats like bacon, ham, and sausage. Lean protein varieties made from turkey, tofu or vegetarian styles can apply to your regular serving recommendations.

Children should avoid foods heavy in sugar and fat. These are mostly things we consider "treats" or "snacks," like cookies, candy, soda, chips, and cake. Most of these foods are typically packed with preservatives, like trans-fat source partially hydrogenated oil.


There is no exercise component to Lunch Lessons. In most cases this would be considered a negative, but since this is a very specific and important mission - improving school food - it's understandable.

However, exercise is strongly encouraged for children and teens of all ages. It is important for them to remain physically active every single day. Being school-aged, there are a wealth of opportunities to be involved with sports during and after school.


Chef Ann Cooper is a Pied Piper of sorts. She's hoping to take kids and parents along on her healthy journey. It's an uphill battle, since she's fighting "Town Hall" - in this case, massive food corporations who have a vested interest in keeping us and our kids on our preservative-drenched packaged foods diet. But if she gets her message to enough people, we have the power to make the healthy changes she's espousing. If you're a parent, the Lunch Lessons website is a worthwhile destination to learn more about improving your child's health.

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(Page 1 of 1, 2 total comments)

marcy nailor


Ditto Kelly! I pack my kids' lunch b/c I simply do not trust what the school is feeding them. I did like this book b/c I learned more about daily allowances for nutrition for my kids and I make a point of sticking to that. To healthy kids!!

posted Oct 4th, 2008 4:31 pm


it's a shame more school districts aren't as adamant about how our kids eat. school districts who don't have a plan like chef ann's should be embarrassed. good job ann!

posted Jun 16th, 2008 3:58 pm


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