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The Renegade Lunch Lady

Robyn Openshaw - Mar 27, 2010 - This Post May Contain Affiliate Links

In Anaheim (I know! I still haven’t told you about the handful of cool products I found–but I will! And I bought some of them for you!) . . .

I heard the coolest talk by Chef Ann Cooper, the “Renegade Lunch Lady.”

She manages 30,000 kids’ lunches in the Boulder, Colorado area. Her goal is to transform children’s diets from the hot mess of processed food it is now, to a nourishing whole-food meal, one school lunch at a time. She’s my hero.

The U.S. government pays $2.68 for a child’s school lunch. Two thirds of that, Cooper says, goes to payroll, leaving just a dollar to feed each child! She wants you to go to her site, and write your elected officials to ask for an extra dollar to feed kids good nutrition, in addition to other government initiatives.

She told us to go out into ExpoWest and find real nutrition. (Good luck! Like I said, 1 in 100 “organic” or “natural” choice is worth your money.) Instead of (her voices changed to a sarcastic tone) organic gummy bears. (I love this lady. Wasn’t that just what I was telling you last week? Don’t waste your limited dollars on organic junk food!)

She said, about school lunches:

“Just say NO to refined flour. To soda, candy, and chips. To antibiotics and hormones. To chemicals and preservatives.

“Just say yes to plum tastings, to a salad bar in every school, to cutting sodium levels in half, to hummus tastings.”

She helps the schools figure out ways to connect children to their food sources. Growing food in the school yard. Trying new, whole foods they’ve never been exposed to, with fun tastings–with all the varied colors, textures, and tastes.

She says the USDA LOVES food for school lunches that haven’t been touched by human hands. School lunches nationwide are chicken nuggets, corn dogs, grilled cheese sandwiches. And we wonder why 70% of America is overweight. In the next two years, MILLIONS of Americans will become overweight. We have to stop the trend NOW.

What is needed, Chef Ann says, is “fresh vegetables, fresh fruits, whole grains, and clean proteins.” Amen, sister.

She says, “Vote with your purchasing!”

Here’s her PowerPoint presentation she showed us, which is fantastic:

Posted in: Relationships

7 thoughts on “The Renegade Lunch Lady”

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  1. Anonymous says:


    I am new, in the last month to GSG. I just want you to know I LOVE THIS INFORMATION! My daughter, sister and I are so excited about everything that we have learned and the changes that we are making that we had my mom, sisters and our daughters all over today for a “Spa Day”. We did a little pampering with massages (my niece is a massage therapist), green smoothie demonstrations and classes on nutrition. Everything we taught we learned from you! Thank you for all you do!

    I do have a couple of questions. I hate to post them here under a blog that doesn’t refer to these two things, but I do remember reading that this is the best way to get an answer from you!

    1. Since we are using Himalayan salt, how do we get our iodine?

    2. Where do we get amino acids? (this question is from my 16 year old son who drink a quart each day! Yahoo!!!)

  2. So, are you watching Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution? I’ve been following it on with my 5yo. We don’t eat “junk” food often, but she sure likes it! She’ll list off her favorite foods as icecream, popsicles, candy, cookies, and treats — even though I rarely buy any icecream and maybe once per month make cookies or something.

    It’s seems hard for little kids to tell the difference between junk-sweet and natural sweet. So, I’m working on educating mine about the differences instead. We make homemade popsicles with real, whole fruits & home preserved juices, we make our own bread, etc.

    I tell her about what is in our food and she’s slowly starting to make good choices on her own when I’m not there. For instance, at my parents’ house there is a lot of candy and a lot of sugar-cereal. (We rarely have even homemade granola.) But one morning she popped into the kitchen and asked Granpa for some cereal, “But not the sugar kind, Grandpa.”

    My girls do like their smoothies, though.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Hi Robyn- I absolutely agree. We don’t have a sit down school lunch program here in Australia. Students bring their own food in from home and are encouraged to only bring healthy food. Part of this is parent education too.

    They can also buy food and place lunch orders from the school tuckshops /canteens that are gradually getting healthier because of parents.

    We have a great chef Stephanie Alexander who has govt funding to help schools set up kitchen gardens with school/parent/community participation

    The school garden becomes part of the curriculum and includes cooking classes using their produce and sit down meals. Start when the kids are in preschool/primary school (4-12) and you have them for life eating healthy food!

  4. Anonymous says:

    Lets catch on board with the new food revolution! 🙂

    Jamie Oliver -famous english cook did it in England. He transformed Englands school lunches into healthy whole food lunchs. He just started a show you can watch on abc or hulu called Jamie olivers food revolution. He is trying to get this ball rolling with the very thing you are talking about.

    What I want to know is what can I specifically do in my area?

  5. Anonymous says:

    Emily, I think I’ll tackle that question in a blog entry SOON, good one, thanks!

  6. Anonymous says:

    Tracy, we use Bragg’s Liquid Aminos–we spray it on our vegetables and fish. It adds a great flavor and gives us aminos at the same time.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Thanks, Chris! What about iodine? Is that something we need to worry about or are we getting it somewhere that I don’t know of (Since I am not using iodized salt)?

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