People We Love :: Chef Ann Cooper

Fighting for healthy school lunches

When Chef Ann Cooper pulled nachos off the Berkeley (Calif.) School District cafeteria menu, the students went on strike. “Deconstructed” nachos, made with real beans and baked chips, replaced Day-Glo cheese on fried chips.

The students eventually came around, thanks to ­Cooper’s “special marketing component,” a hands-on approach that allows kids to “experience food from the farming stages to the cooking, and the background behind the food.”

A former hotel and resort chef, Cooper has been an advocate for healthy school lunches for the past decade, and is now director of the Berkeley School District’s Nutrition Services. Cooper founded the nonprofit Food Family Farming Foundation (F3), which offers a Web portal called “The Lunch Box” with tools for schools pursuing cafeteria food reform. “Hungry or malnourished kids can’t learn,” Cooper said. “This is something that really should be a birthright.”