Ann Cooper: The State of School Lunches


Most principals and school lunch ladies probably roll their eyes when fingers start wagging and parents start turning up the volume on school lunches. We know it’s a problem. They know it’s a problem. It’s a problem. But it doesn’t have to be!

Ann Cooper is best known as the Renegade Lunch Lady. The changes she has made are simple and effective and they can take place at your kids school. If you’re concerned about the school lunches your children are being fed, take 20 minutes to dig into Ann’s amazing talk on how she literally has changed a community with school lunches.

Key takeaways:

  • We’re seeing sick kids get sicker and sicker. And the reason this is happening – by and large – is because of our food system.
  • We, as a nation, have to start thinking about consuming, growing and feeding our children food that’s not chock-full of chemicals. We can’t keep feeding our kids pesticides and herbicides and antibiotics and hormones.
  • One of my favorite facts is that U.S. agriculture uses 1.2 billion pounds of pesticides every year. That means every one of us, and our children, consumes what would equal a five-pound bag.
  • We now live in a country that has more prisoners than farmers — 2.1 million prisoners, 1.9 million farmers. And we spend 35,000 dollars on average a year keeping a prisoner in prison, and school districts spend 500 dollars a year feeding a child. It’s no wonder, you know, we have criminals. :)
  • Whoever decided that a chicken should look like a heart, a giraffe, a star? … What’s wrong with teaching kids that chicken looks like chicken? … We really have to teach children that chicken is not a giraffe. You know, that vegetables are actually colorful, that they have flavor, that carrots grow in the ground, that strawberries grow in the ground. There’s not a strawberry tree or a carrot bush.
  • We can’t keep serving kids processed crap, full of chemicals, and expect these are going to be healthy citizens. You’re not going to get the next generation, or the generation after, to be able to think like this if they’re not nourished. If they’re eating chemicals all the time, they’re not going to be able to think. They’re not going to be smart. You know what? They’re just going to be sick.


  1. Judy Belgonan says

    Thanks for the information. It is very important to cautious about what we put into our bodies.

    Here is a great tool for your readers to calculate how much one could consume before they have to worry about the effects of pesticide residue.

    For instance Woman could consume 529 Servings of Apples in one day without any effect even if the Apples have the highest pesticide residue recorded for Apples by USDA according to this research.

    This research was performed by experts from both Academia, the USSA and the EPA. Let me know what you think!

    • Sara says

      Cool calculator! If I ate all those blueberries like it says, I think I would turn into a blueberry like girl in Willy Wonka! :)

  2. Megan says

    Thank you for pulling this together, Kerry! I have so many thoughts on these types of topics, but you always seem to pull it together so succinctly. I will definitely use these thoughts moving forward in conversations with folks who believe that “organic is a waste of money.”
    How do you handle those situations? I seem to get that a lot!

    • Kerry says

      A constant problem in my life! I haven’t found the right answer, but try to be as sensitive as possible to those “oh, he’s a kid, just let him (my son) eat a little junk” and “oh my gosh, you must spend so much $$ on food!” It’s really, really hard! In as few words as possible (!!! always a challenge !!!) I try to explain I want to eat foods that are real without pesticides and chemcials. I wish there was an easy answer, especially with families :(

  3. Tara says


    This is a passion of mine and something I tell every new mom. The way to keep your kids healthy starts with the food. My daughter really wants to eat school lunch, as a compromise we let her once or twice a week. I certainly have noticed a difference in her on those day.

    • Kerry says

      It’s so true. Although my kids aren’t school-age, I’ve heard so many stories…

      kids getting LUNCH at 10:30
      kids being super cranky and irritable on days they have school lunches
      BM’s being different with school lunches
      kids having recess after lunch (fairly common unfortunately)

      … and on and on …

      Your daughter is lucky to have you giving her a balance!

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