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Slow Food OKC in the News

Below are instances of Slow Food in our local news and media.

  • March 14th 2007 - Click here for full article
    Chef offers ways to reform meals in schools
    - Daily Oklahoman
    Ann Cooper develops formula for healthier lunch menus for kids

  • March 7th 2007
    Pepper This - Oklahoma Gazette - By Chris Willard/Cook This
    While Oklahoma City elementary school students enjoyed “Valentine’s nuggets” Feb. 14, students in chef Ann Cooper’s Berkeley, Calif., school district enjoyed rotini with fresh tomatoes. Cooper will discuss her career and offer insights into how the lunch program in Oklahoma schools could be improved, 2 p.m. Saturday in the University of Central Oklahoma’s Pegasus Theatre, N. Bauman Avenue between E. Ayers and E. Main streets in Edmond. Admission is free; reservations are requested. Call 440-6555. Saturday
    Link: Click Here for Article on OKGazette.com

  • February 28th 2007 - Click here for full article
    School lunch guru is coming to share concept
    - Daily Oklahoman - By Beth Gollob Staff Writer
    A California proponent of revamping school lunches will speak in Edmond next month about her efforts to improve child nutrition through use of fresh, locally grown produce and meats.

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March 14th, 2007
Chef offers ways to reform meals in schools - Daily Oklahoman
Ann Cooper develops formula for healthier lunch menus for kids.

By Sharon Dowell
Food Editor

Ann Cooper isn't your typical school lunchroom cook. In fact, she's called "the renegade lunch lady” on her Web site (lunchlessons.org), and these days she's shaking things up when it comes to what children are eating for lunch at schools in Berkeley, Calif.

Chef Cooper, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, has worked the typical chef jobs — preparing food for white tablecloth restaurants and writing food books. After chronicling the evolution of female chefs in her first book, she delved into a much more controversial subject for "Bitter Harvest: A Chef's Perspective on the Hidden Dangers in the Foods We Eat and What You Can Do About It,” published in 2000. In the book, she detailed why food makes us sick and why foods are making our children sick. The book led to Cooper being asked to become executive chef at a school in Easthampton, N.Y., where she began developing school lunches based on regional, organic, seasonal and sustainable meals, according to her Web site.

Her success at that first school led to her being asked to revamp school lunches in New York City and Harlem. She was then asked to shake up the school lunch program in Berkeley. These days, she's taking on the National School Lunch Program by challenging schools to switch to healthier foods that'll stop the obesity epidemic among children that's increased from 5 percent in 1980 to 17 percent in 2004. Cooper's newest book, "Lunch Lessons: Changing the Way We Feed Our Children,” offers ways for schools and parents to make reforms in the school lunchroom and at home.

During a recent telephone interview, Cooper said her job at each school to improve school lunches has been overwhelming "and is still overwhelming.”

Cooper was in Oklahoma City last weekend to share her lessons of success in transforming school lunches to include healthier fare during a meeting sponsored by Slow Food OKC, the University of Central Oklahoma and OK Fit Kids Coalition.

In Berkeley, she started the transformation of school lunches 1 1/2 years ago.

"The food was really, really bad,” she said. "It was highly processed foods, and we started changing recipes. Then we started changing menus, and then we starting changing purveyors, and then we put in salad bars and trained staff.”

Cooper uses local sources for food for the students whenever possible. She has some farmers who show up wanting to sell organic and fresh produce for the students, and she's constantly seeking out just the right sources of food by shopping around, including at farmers markets.

"We're always trying to look for the best product we can for the kids at a price we can afford. It's an ongoing situation.”

She oversees all cooking and gardening classes at the schools for kindergarteners through high school.

"We have cooking classes in 13 schools, we have gardening classes and we'll have gardens in all the schools by the end of the year,” she said.

During the telephone interview, the chef sighed repeatedly when asked to explain about her "lunch lessons.” She said she gets frustrated when people don't listen or are unwilling to hear her message. And the chef does have strong opinions — especially when it comes to MyPyramid, the government's official guide that details what foods Americans should eat.

"I think the pyramid is ridiculous. I think it's really hard to figure out what to do with it. That's why I came out with my Healthy Kids Wheel on my Web site. I think that the government's version is kind of useless. The pyramid tells you to drink three glasses of milk a day, no matter how old you are. That's ridiculous. I plugged in for 6-, 12-, 24-, 48- and 64-year-old females, and they all said to drink three glasses of milk. It's ridiculous. That's the dairy lobby at work,” she said.

Her Healthy Kids Wheel suggests students should consume on a daily basis 4 to 9 servings of whole grains, 4 to 9 servings of vegetables, 3 to 5 servings of fruits, 2 to 3 servings of calcium, 2 to 3 servings of lean protein, 3 to 4 servings of healthy fats, and just 2 to 3 servings of red meat per week. It also guides students to have sugars and fats only rarely and recommends getting plenty of daily exercise, sleep, water and fun.

The chef has some definite ideas on how to make school lunches healthier.

"You've got to start by changing the food,” Cooper said. "We need to reduce and eliminate refined sugars and refined flour, we should eliminate foods with little or no nutrient value, we should eliminate all fried foods, and we should be serving fresh fruits and vegetables, lots of complex carbohydrates and whole grains, and no vending machines, no competitive foods, no candy, no soda, no cookies, no desserts, no chocolate milk. But all that is easy stuff. We set up salad bars at school, and we get rid of the processed foods.”

She said changes also have to take place at the dinner table at home. "You say ‘We're going to have dessert once a week, we're going to have fruit every day, we're not going to have fried foods anymore or we're going to have fried food just once a week and we're not going to have soda anymore or we're going to have soda just once a week.' It is not hard.”

Cooper said National School Lunch Program policies need to change.

"We are in an election cycle, and I really hope as part of a democratic society we can get people to understand how important it is to change policy and to tell elected officials with all the trillions of dollars we're going to be spending in the next four or eight years of the next presidency that we really ought to make children's health a priority.”

And her greatest reward in working to make sure students eat healthier school lunches?

"I'm just trying to keep kids alive,” she said.


  • - Daily Oklahoman
    A California proponent of revamping school lunches will speak in Edmond next month about her efforts to improve child nutrition through use of fresh, locally grown produce and meats.

_____________________________________________________________________

February 28th, 2007
School lunch guru is coming to share concept
- Daily Oklahoman

By Beth Gollob
Staff Writer

A California proponent of revamping school lunches will speak in Edmond next month about her efforts to improve child nutrition through use of fresh, locally grown produce and meats.

Chef Ann Cooper will speak March 10 at the University of Central Oklahoma during a public event sponsored by the UCO College of Education, Oklahoma Fit Kids Coalition and Slow Food Oklahoma.

Cooper, author of “Lunch Lessons: Changing the Way We Feed our Children,” is nutrition services director for the Berkeley Unified School District. As part of a wellness program she developed for that district and some in New York, she developed school menus with fresh, organic produce and locally raised lean meats.

Organizers of Cooper’s appearance hope she will inspire educators to improve school lunch programs locally, making better use of fresh items and moving away from the mass-produced chicken nuggets and pizzas so common in school cafeterias.

“Chef Ann Cooper has been able to do wonderful things in terms of school lunches,” said Ameyka Pittman, project coordinator for the Oklahoma Fid Kids Coalition.

Sedentary lifestyles are among the largest health concerns for Oklahoma children, said Cristina McQuistion, a leader for Slow Food Oklahoma City. Changing their attitudes about healthy eating needs to start with teaching them where their food comes from, she added.

Other child health advocates set to speak during the event include Chris Kirby, coordinator of Oklahoma Farm to School.

The public presentation will be at 2 p.m. March 10 in UCO’s Pegasus Theater. Admission is free, but reservations are recommended. For more information, call 440-6555 or e-mail slowfoodokc@yahoo.com.

 

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