Ms. Ann Cooper

Boulder, Colorado
United States

Focus Areas

Community & Civic Engagement
Food Systems
Food Systems
Environment & Sustainable Development


Chef Ann Cooper, the "Renegade Lunch Lady", is a celebrated author, chef, educator, and enduring advocate for better food for all children. In a nation where children are born with shorter estimated life expectancies than their parents because of diet-related illness, Ann is a relentless voice of reform by focusing on the links between food, family, farming and children's health and wellness. She works to transform cafeterias into culinary classrooms for students "one school lunch at a time." As the former Executive Chef and Director of Wellness and Nutrition at The Ross School in East Hampton, New York, Chef Ann developed an integrated school lunch curriculum centered on regional, organic, seasonal and sustainable meals. As a result of the success of her wellness program, Chef Ann was invited to work with Bridgehampton Public Schools to teach students why good food choices matter by providing fresh, organic lunches at a nominally increased cost. She then went on to completely overhaul the school food programs for Berkeley Unified School District and Boulder Valley Public Schools, where Ann currently serves as the director of food services. Chef Ann also offers consulting services for school administrators through her private firm Lunch Lessons, LLC, revamping their school lunch programs and offering nutrition and food choice education to students. She works with schools to incorporate integrated cafeteria school lunch curriculums that not only promote serving healthful foods, but also increase the availability of healthy food and nutritious choices for kids and teens. In 2009, Chef Ann founded the nonprofit Food Family Farming Foundation (F3) as a way to help school districts across the nation improve their nutrition services. F3 helps schools transition to scratch-cooking kitchens that serve delicious meals made with fresh whole ingredients and that support both healthy food systems and healthy eating habits for life. Chef Ann did not always serve food in a cafeteria line; she is the former Executive Chef of the acclaimed Putney Inn in Vermont. Her commitment to healthy, fresh food drove her to educate people with the power to guarantee that these food choices exist for future generations. A graduate of The Culinary Institute of America, Chef Ann has served the public in many different roles. She is the past president of both Women Chefs and Restaurateurs and The American Culinary Federation of Central Vermont, and she sat on both the USDA National Organic Standards Board and the Food Quality Advisory Board for the New York City Office of School Food and Nutrition Services. Chef Ann speaks extensively across the country (and around the world!) raising awareness about the value of healthy, seasonal, and regional school food and nutrition education for America's children. Her Ted Talk has been viewed over 400,000 times. Chef Ann demonstrates how it can be accomplished through her book Lunch Lessons: Changing the Way America Feeds Its Children. She is also the author three other books including Bitter Harvest: A Chef's Perspective on the Hidden Dangers in the Foods We Eat and What You Can do About It (2000). Chef Ann received the 2012 IACP Humanitarian of the Year Award. The National Resources Defense Council honored Chef Ann with a "Thought Leader" Growing Green Award, and she received an honorary doctorate from SUNY Cobleskill for her work on sustainable agriculture. FoodService Director named Chef Ann as one of its inaugural "Influential 20," and selected Chef Ann as one of their top 15 Crusaders for Health in the Food Industry along with Michael Pollan, Jamie Oliver, and Alice Waters. Chef Ann will not stop until every child in every school has access to fresh, healthy and delicious food every day.