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Cooper to Leave Berkeley

Ann Cooper, the so-called “renegade lunch lady” who overhauled the foodservice program at Berkeley (CA) USD, will leave the program at the end of the school year, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. In June, she will begin a consulting contract through her Lunch Lessons LLC consulting organization with Boulder Valley (CO) School District, which, with some 29,000 students and 60 schools, is about four times as large as Berkeley.

Boulder Valley is initiating an initiative called the School Food Project with a $100,000 donation from a pair of local parents. School Food Project seeks to make district breakfasts and lunches healthier, scratch-cooked and fresher, according to a district news release. The $100,000 donation will serve to pay Cooper’s consulting fee for the first six months as the meal program revamp kicks off.

Cooper took over Berkeley USD’s foodservice program in October 2005 and implemented a series of menu changes concentrating on fresh, from-scratch production of meals using local, organic products with an emphasis on whole grains, lean meats and fresh produce. She banned transfats, preservatives, refined flour, sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, white bread, processed meats and foods high in salt and sodium, implemented universal free breakfast across the district, put in salad bars at all sites and oversaw the construction and opening of the $8.7 million King Dining Common, central production facility. The program was subsidized until this past fall by a grant from Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse Foundation. During Cooper's tenure, she became a prominent advocate of radical change in school meal programs and was profiled in a number of national meanstream publication and electronic media as Berkeley's "renegade lunch lady."

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