School Lunch is a Social Justice Issue

"Renegade lunch lady" Ann Cooper on what we're teaching kids about food and nutrition—and how to change it.
Boulder students

Before taking on nutrition in school lunches, Ann Cooper wrote Bitter Harvest: A Chef’s Perspective on the Hidden Dangers in the Foods We Eat and What You Can Do About It.

Photo by Ellen Mahoney

"My thing with school lunch is it's a social justice issue," says Ann Cooper, then director of nutritional services for Berkeley Unified school district, during a 2007 TED speech.

Cooper, author of Bitter Harvest: A Chef’s Perspective on the Hidden Dangers in the Foods We Eat and What You Can Do About It, has followed her passion to school cafeterias around the nation, planning meals for kids that are local, organic, and healthy.

Most recently, she's shaking things up in Boulder, Colorado.

"All of us send our kids, our grandchildren, our nieces and nephews, to school and tell them to learn, learn what's in those schools. And when you feed these kids bad food, that's what they're learning," she says.

Instead, Cooper advocates sustainable, healthy food. From introducing salad bars to focusing on regional fare to teaching cooking and gardening classes, she works on changing kids' relationship to food while overseeing 7,100 meals a day.


This speech was given during a July 2009 conference for in Oxford, England. TED is a nonprofit "devoted to ideas worth spreading."