My guest this week is Mara Fleishman who turned her passion for healthy and sustainable food into a career by taking a position leading the marketing efforts for Whole Foods Market on the East Coast and in Europe. For nearly six years, she worked to raise awareness of the importance of eating fresh, healthy food. After a move to Boulder, Colorado, Fleishman decided to join her kindergartener for lunch at school one day. Shocked by the highly processed, high-sugar lunch that she and her daughter were served, she began her crusade to reform school food.
In 2013, Fleishman left her position as Global Director of Partnerships with Whole Foods Market to work on school food reform in a full-time capacity as CEO of the Chef Ann Foundation. With three kids ranging from ages eight to eighteen, Mara brings a parent’s awareness to her work and writes about school food through that lens. Her current and archived blog posts are available on The Lunch Line.
In this episode, Mara and I discuss the reality of school food programs across the United States and how parents can become equipped to advocate for healthier options within their children’s school district. Mara provides parents with resources to educate, inspire, and take action with the Chef Ann Foundation’s Parent Advocacy Toolkit. To learn more about Mara click here.
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The Lunch Box Progam
- Helps to provide school district administrators, food service directors and their teams with the tools and resources they need to serve healthy, scratch-cooked food to students
- To access their list of ongoing programs and ways to get involved or apply click here
Chef Ann Foundation Advocacy Toolkit
- The Chef Ann Foundation Parent Advocacy Toolkit provides parents with steps to ‘Get Educated’, ‘Get Organized’ and ‘Take Action’
- School food is regulated by the federal government as it is a federal subsidy
- The regulations on school food include calorie restrictions, sodium restrictions, and a whole grain requirement but there are NO sugar restrictions
Where to learn more about Mara Fleishman…
Episode Intro … 00:00:30
Mara’s Story … 00:05:00
The Lunch Box Program … 00:12:00
Chef Ann Foundation Advocacy Toolkit … 00:17:09
Episode Wrap Up … 00:34:30
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
Hi everyone, welcome to the show. I am Dr. Nicole and today, we’re going to talk about school food and what we need to know to improve it in our kids’ schools. Food is so important, not just for physical growth, but for brain development, for learning, for behavioral regulation, and as a parent, myself, I have had my children eat breakfast at home and bring their lunch and snacks to school the vast majority of the time because of the quality of food served in their school cafeteria is just not what I want it to be. And while that’s a choice that some of us can make, I also understand that’s not an option for some families. Many kids are going to school and their main source of nourishment or the food that they’re getting is what’s served in the school food program. So we need to be concerned about what’s being served to all of our kids in those environments.
As I was thinking about delving into this topic for the show, I’m thinking back to a lot of times when I’ve been called to do consults at local schools or schools in the area around kids with behavioral challenges and things like hyperactivity, poor focus, aggressive behaviors — and it’s interesting because when you look at what these kids are eating, when I come in for a consult, I’ll observe for several hours. So I’ll watch these kids eat breakfast in the cafeteria, and it’s things like Pop-Tarts, sugary juices, and flavored milk, donuts, cereals — those kinds of things. And they go to class then, they’re on this sugar high, which increases the likelihood of issues with impulsive behavior, poor focus and those kinds of things, and about 60-90 minutes later, their blood sugar crashes. Now they’re moody, they’re irritable, they’re argumentative, they’re tired.
Then they go to lunch and I watch the cycle start all over again. Now, they’re having chocolate milk, they’re having fruit cocktail, pizza, the salad, which unfortunately in many of the schools, at least around here, is iceberg lettuce with ranch dressing. And foods with poor quality, artificial ingredients, lots of sugar, those kinds of things are a recipe for increasing learning and behavior problems at school. It’s just a fact that we need to acknowledge. So what can concerned parents and professionals do about this? On the show today, I’ve got Mara Fleishman, who is CEO of the Chef Ann Foundation, to talk about what we need to know about school food in order to engage districts in serving healthy, fresher food. I think this is something that more parents are getting interested in, it’s something that more people in foodservice settings in our schools are getting interested in, and I love the mission of this foundation. It’s to provide school communities with the tools, the training, the resources and the funding to create healthier food and redefine lunchroom environments. It’s such an important mission, I’m excited to dive into all this with Mara. Let me tell you a little bit more about her.
In 2001, Mara Fleishman turned her passion for healthy and sustainable food into a career by taking a position leading the marketing efforts for Whole Foods Market on the East Coast and in Europe. For nearly six years, she worked to raise awareness of the importance of eating fresh, healthy food. After a move to Boulder, Colorado, she decided to join her kindergartener for lunch at school one day. Shocked by the highly processed, high-sugar lunch that she and her daughter were served, she began her crusade to reform school food. In 2013, Mara left her position as Global Director of Partnerships with Whole Foods Market to work on school food reform in a full-time capacity as CEO of the Chef Ann Foundation. With three kids ranging in ages from eight to seventeen, Mara brings a parent’s awareness to her work and writes about school food through that lens. Her current and archived blog posts are available on The Lunch Line. We’ll share the link to that later. Mara, I’m so excited to have you on the show, welcome.
Thank you so much for having me, this is great! What an introduction! And may I just congratulate you for going into the cafeterias and having lunch, because we recommend that all parents do that.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
I think, absolutely. And I have a similar experience too, on the parent’s side. I’m a mom of four, my kids now range in age from 13 to 19 and even going in when they were in elementary school for the annual parent lunches or muffins with moms breakfast things or Thanksgiving lunches and really looking at just the food environment as a whole and the eating environment and what kids are being served. It’s really, really eye-opening. So I want to talk a little bit more, as we get started — In your bio, you describe a little bit about how you got into this, but I’d love to have you start out by talking about why this work is important to you. You left a pretty big position. You had a gig going there with Whole Foods and all of that. I’m interested in hearing more about what motivated you to leave that to focus on school food of all things.
I really loved my job at Whole Foods and the work that I did there. We definitely felt like we were part of a renegade crew trying to change food systems, particularly when I started in 2000. What happened, I think, was when I went to have lunch with my daughter, in kindergarten, who is now 18, that I just brought to college for freshman year, which is crazy. I was really much like you, shocked at what I saw. They served French toast sticks, which were processed, with a packet of maple syrup that had no syrup in it and a side of pears in a light, sugary syrup. And Lucy was in a kindergarten class of 30 kids, which is not uncommon here in Colorado. We are not a great funded school system like before I moved from which was Massachusetts.
So there were 30 kids, Lucy was very shy. There were a lot more boys in the class than girls, and at that age, they are learning to read in kindergarten, right? There was one teacher, 30 kids — and I saw what was being eaten for school lunch. And I looked at the rowdiness levels already of the kids in her class, and I thought to myself — how is this teacher going to teach these kids how to read. It is the hardest thing to do. That’s really what started me on the process. But what happened over time, as I started to work on this — so in my role as Global Director of Partnerships for Whole Foods Market, I was able to raise some money for this foundation, and provide some funds to help it grow.
As I started to learn more about what was going on in school food — so there are 30 million school lunches served every day in the United States, of that, 21 million are served to kids who are on the free and reduced lunch programs. This means that these kids, these 21 million kids that eat school lunch every day are coming from families that earn less than $44,000 a year. They’re the very target group that is needing to remain healthy and look at what they’re eating and think about their food as it relates to their health. So as I learned more, I started to not be as excited as some of the programs that I was working on at Whole Foods that was trying to get better and better good to middle and upper-income people.
It’s not that it’s not important, but when we have 30 million lunches being served every day, to kids who are the youngest and most vulnerable populations, and the food they are eating is not even a quarter as healthy or at the quality level that we’re trying to serve at Whole Foods, I just thought we have to do this — not just for the kids, I’m going to say this, I mean I have three kids, but also for the food system. Right now, we are suffering from environmental perspectives, we are suffering from global warming, and food production is a huge contributor to that. When you start looking at institutional food production, hospitals, prisons, schools — and you start looking at the low quality of that — if you’re able to move the needle even a little bit on some of that food, you’re going to make an impact.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
I love it. And I just love the passion behind this sort of change in career path for you, you had this realization like “Whoa! This is going on in schools! While it’s great to teach adults and focus on that, man! We’ve got to get to these kids!” Right?
Yeah, I mean really, when we were starting to roll out the animal compassion standards at Whole Foods, it was beyond organic food, it was beyond grass-fed beef — it was how they were treated, the animals. How they were treated, how they were looked at and still — most of the schools were getting commodity meat, that was not organic, that had hormones, that had antibiotics and there is a protein regulation. So these schools are serving animal protein daily, and it’s of the lowest quality.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
Yeah, absolutely. So I want you to talk a bit about the Chef Ann Foundation, what it is — I mentioned in the intro the mission of it, but talk about the foundation and what the focus really is.
So the focus of the Chef Ann Foundation is to help support school districts and creating healthier food. We do that through supporting them and moving towards a cook-from-scratch production. So in schools, there are really three primary ways that food programs are being operated. One is a food service management company, so Sodexo or Revolution Foods or a number of other organizations will go in and run your whole food program for you. Some of those organizations are serving higher quality food products than others, but one thing that we can’t forget is that the reimbursable for school lunch at a public school is about $3.30. So no matter how you slice that, you have to think about how that money gets spent. You are not going to be able to serve everything organic, and I really want parents to understand that. It is impossible.
So when you go and approach your foodservice teams at schools and you’re asking them to serve everything organic, it’s nearly impossible for them. So the Chef Ann Foundation, what we want to do is we want to put the power of procurement and cooking back into the hands of the school food teams. Because when you only have $3.30, you need to really think about your own budgets at home. How much time it’s going to take you to get to the supermarket to prep the food, the ingredients that you’re buying, did you waste any? Did you buy some lettuce that you thought you were going to use and you didn’t? Do you have proper refrigeration? All that goes into place when you are running a cook-from-scratch operation, but you also get to massage it.
So we can help districts look at taking some of the money they get from the government for subsidies and instead of using it on, let’s say, commodity meat products where they are not able to get higher level quality animal protein, we have to move it over to canned beans and other things that are of equivalent quality and then have them, work with them to create relationships with local ranchers so that they can bring in some local higher quality meat and poultry. It’s a slow process, but when they can do that and they can really think about each ingredient that goes in — so take, for instance, a chicken nugget vs. an oven-fried chicken on thelunchbox.org, it’s a recipe. The oven-fried chicken has 5 ingredients in it. The chicken nugget, which is a processed product has about 30 ingredients in it, right? You can’t choose any of those ingredients and a lot of them you don’t need and you can’t make the choice to have a different buttermilk or a different chicken or a different that, so we really want to put that power back into the hands of the school food teams. We do that through providing them grants, funding, professional development, training — as a matter of fact, on August 19th, our biggest grant opened, it’s called ‘Get Schools Cooking’ and every 18 months we accept between 4 and 8 districts into our ‘Get Schools Cooking’ Program where we work with these districts over a 3-year period to actually work right beside them to help move their program over to cook-from-scratch.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
I love it, it’s like what school food used to be way back when the lunch ladies actually were cooking things before it all went to canned, overly-processed stuff!
Yeah! It’s so true! And you know, I have found — because I do a lot of trips to DC too, to talk about this, you know it really has become almost a bipartisan issue, which I love in today’s age!
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
It’s unheard of!
Unheard of! So you know, while some people think it’s more important to serve higher quality food than others in Congress and legislation, the thing that everyone understands is, if you cook from scratch, you’re going to be able to purchase more local ingredients and add back to your local economy. That piece alone has become something people can get around together.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
I love that, it makes sense when you run the numbers, when you look at the logistics of it, it just makes sense. For somebody like me, focused on physical health and mental health of kids, it makes sense because when we have better quality fresh food, nutrient-rich food being fed to kids for their school meal programs, it just supports their learning and development so much better and I just tear my hair out sometimes over the complaints about kids behavior and what’s going on during the school day, and I’m like, well, part of it is just what we’re putting in them.
I mean just recognizing that if you’re going to have kids having things like a carton of strawberry milk, for example, for breakfast, and for lunch. Educating people about — they might as well drink a soda-pop, that’s as much sugar. Yes, it’s milk and milk is good — well, wait a second, let’s look at what’s going on there, as you mentioned, the chicken nuggets with 30 ingredients, many of which, when we look at the research, are linked to these developmental issues, behavior challenges, issues in kids, not to mention the number of kids who have things like food allergies, sensitivities, all of that. And to your point, the scratch cooking, doing all those things allows for modifications and things that can better meet the needs of kids with those issues than the processed stuff that they’re serving, so really, just all the way around, it just makes a lot more sense, doesn’t it?
It really does. The flavored milk, it kills me. I just have to say, it’s one thing we really work on and with our ‘Get Schools Cooking’ grant, so we strongly advocate taking all flavored milk out. We also advocated moving to bulk milk, because once you’re able to move to bulk milk, not only are you reducing single-served, but you are able to save enough money that you can actually move to organic milk. Now milk is drank every day in the schools, so taking something like that that is there every day and choosing an organic line there, that’s what you have to do, those are the choices that you have to make, those are the choices that any family also has to make when they’re thinking about the health of their family. Not everyone can afford to buy organic everything. So you’re up against the same things.
The funny thing here is, one of the reasons why I am so passionate about this work too is because when I started trying to work with my district to try to change school food back in 2006, I went in with a head full of steam, and I was like, “why can’t we do this, and why can’t we do this? This is crazy!” I didn’t know what I didn’t know. So one thing that we really try to work with parents on is getting educated first. So if you go to the chefannfoundation.org website, there is a parent section where we have an advocacy toolkit. There are three sections to it, one is ‘Get Educated’ next is ‘Get Organized’ and the last is ‘Take Action’.
This is really a toolkit to help you work with your district to change school food, and the more you know, the better it is. So for instance, school food is regulated by the federal government because it is a federal subsidy. The USDA is the overseeing group. So there are a number of regulations when it comes to school food. So there are calorie restrictions, there are fat restrictions, there are sodium restrictions, there is a whole grain requirement — but guess what? Guess what there is not? Anything? There is no sugar restriction anywhere. So you have to see how things happen in the United States and the fact that we can have all of these regulations but no sugar, you can add as much sugar as you want, and you know what? When you have that, whole grains, guess what you add to cover up whole grains? You add a lot of sugar. That’s why we really have to get back to — we have to build the pallets of children to want less processed food in life.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
Absolutely. And that is something that I feel schools can partner together with parents on. Parents will often say to my colleagues and I at the clinic, we’re trying to do this at home, we’re trying to feed our kids more of these things, but they see all these things at school, they get the school menu, and let’s just say — I can’t speak for everywhere in the country, but I can speak for districts in my area: Menus often look like they are endorsed and subsidized by a lot of the big packaged food corporations. We’re talking about brand name things! Pop-Tarts and certain brand names of cheesy pizzas and these terrible disgusting things that they call Walking Tacos, which is a back of Doritos with gross processed cheese — I look at these things, and I think what are these things doing on the menu of an institution that exists to support and further the growth and development of kids? What are we doing? And how much more challenging it is then, for parents in all income brackets who are trying to access things like produce, trying to expand their kids’ pallets, trying to model healthier, more supportive eating habits, and then they’re going to school and this is what is marketed and promoted and provided as a healthy, well-balanced meal, I mean it’s really just crazy!
It’s so crazy! And it is so cyclical. Some of the big barriers that we face when we try and work with districts to change food is that if you are changing from a processed heat and serve production to a cook-from-scratch product, I will tell you this right now. You are going to lose participation in the first year. These kids are accustomed to this processed food and they are going to complain to their parents and it’s going to be a little bit of a headache, okay? If you remove flavored milk, you’re going to get complaints.
But guess what happens after the first year? There are no more complaints. When you don’t have the options, when there only is regular white milk, when you don’t have à la carte items anymore, or a bunch of snack-processed meals, they eat what they’re served. And you have to push past that. You can’t expect a child who has been served Doritos to all of a sudden choose broccoli. We get this complaint from schools all the time, “Well, they don’t want it. They won’t eat it. Food’s being wasted” and we say “Stick with it. Stick with it, you have to, we can not take the easy road out every single term. We can not do it”. In every single district, the participation comes back, it always does, but you have to stick with it.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
Well, that’s such valuable information and you guys have been doing this long enough to really see those trends and those patterns. It’s the same thing we tell individual families, right? We say to parents, when you start filling your pantry with healthier snack options, when you start cooking from scratch more, as opposed to going to the drive-through, you can expect your kids are going to put up a bit of a fuss about it. They’re not going to be all on board right away, but they do come around with it. So I think that that’s really helpful information, but I can see that as a barrier, and the other thing that — one of the things that you mentioned that I love about your organization is you don’t just say schools need to be doing this. You roll your sleeves up, literally put on the aprons, get in there and say, “Let us work with you.” Right down to showing people how to properly cook things, because I’ll tell you that’s something I see.
Even in schools that I’ve been in where they’re trying to over some healthier options when it’s gross-looking and not delicious — I think back to when people’s only experience with vegetables is their grandma used to throw some sad Brussel sprouts in boiling water and not season them and overcook them. Yeah, that’s gross, no one wants to eat that. But when we teach people how to cook things well, how to get good food and then how to season it, how to cook it in a way where it looks and smells and tastes delicious, that makes a big difference!
It’s huge, and I’m so glad as a doctor, that you care about that. Because we have a culinary focus to our organization, and it’s not just because we love food, but we know it is such an important part of the entire cycle. So when you are creating recipes for kids and you have all of these regulations you have to meet, you could so easily just think about it from an administrative perspective and a calculated perspective and put it together and then you’ve got something. You don’t think about it from a culinary perspective and is it delicious? Is it the quality of the food break?
One of the things that we really try and work with districts on is, sometimes when they move to a cook-from-scratch operation, they try and transport things hot. When you transport things hot, you ultimately decrease the quality of what you end up serving, because you are transporting it 3-4 hours beforehand, it’s hot, it’s lukewarm]. You’re forgetting things. So we really try and work with them to create production kitchen recipes with finishing kitchen ends and how that works with labor.
I mean the funny thing is that people think that the culinary part is the hardest thing to train. The hardest thing to work with these school districts on is their financial management. When you try and buy fresh food and store it and make sure you’re not wasting it, make sure there is no shrink, manage your labor to cook it, there are a lot of moving pieces to that enterprise, and a lot of times, there are food service people who just don’t have that capacity or haven’t had the experience prior to understand how to model that. Once we are able to work with them on it, it’s a huge difference.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
And it’s so true, there are so many working parts just in education as a bureaucracy in general. Think about changing any part of that, whether it’s curriculum or teacher training or student class sizes or lunch — just the bureaucracy behind all these pieces that you’re talking about — I do think we’ve had families that we’ve worked with here at the clinic who have approached their district, have talked about making changes and there are a lot of those roadblocks, you’ve mentioned several, and that can feel frustrating then on the part of parents. And I think sometimes there is some comparing that goes on too, like parents will say, “Well my kid’s district is serving this stuff, but my friend’s school district is serving this.” Can you speak to that? What are some of the reasons? Why are some schools able to or are serving just better-looking, tasting, better quality food than others?
So there are a lot of norms that people believe in. So salad bars, for instance. Salad bars, we grant out salad bars, we granted out almost 6000 salad bars to date to school across the country in every state. We believe that salad bars are the best first step for a school that’s looking to improve their food program. It creates a lot more access to fresh fruits and vegetables, and it’s kind of a microcosm of a cook-from-scratch program, so you have to fresh prep, you have to fresh order, you have to fresh store and you have to deal with labor and so that, once you’re able to do that, it’s just this gateway to a better program. A lot of districts will say the salad bar lines hold kids up, the salad bar is not sanitary, kids are putting their hands in it — but there are too many salad bars now out there in schools and the estimates out there that 20% of schools have salad bars. There are too many examples to ignore. We’re reaching a tipping point, and I think it’s really exciting for parents.
So the reason why things are different is usually because there is a food service person who has a predisposed point of view about something and it just takes them either being removed from their position, sometimes that is the only way things change or actually kind of seeing things. We really try and be the partner to the food service people, because we know what they’re up against. They’re getting complaints from parents, they’re getting heat from their superintendent, they feel like they’re trying to do a good job by feeding these kids every day, and yet they feel like there is no one who is grateful for it. We try and make them the heroes and help them lead the change in their district.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
I love that, because it’s so true. They’re up against a lot, and depending on the district, you may get parents complaining about why you’re not serving their kids’ favorite boxed pizza, why you aren’t offering that every day. It can be tough, it can feel, I’m sure, to a lot of them — it’s a no-win situation, right? If I try to make something healthy, then I get complaints over here, if I do — and so I love your approach of really partnering with that because that really was the origin of this organization, right? It was Chef Ann being in it, understanding what the components of this are, and when you come from the inside with anything, I think you see that and can approach that in a much different way.
Yeah, it’s very true. And it’s also true for parents to understand that no matter what a food service person does, they are going to get blamed one way or the other. Whether you leave the strawberry milk in and you get blamed by the parents who don’t want the sugar, you take the strawberry milk out and you get blamed by the parents who want their kids to have the protein from the strawberry milk. One way or the other, they’re going to get blamed, so even knowing that when you go in to talk to them — and that’s part of that parent advocacy toolkit, we really walk you through the process of thinking about what you want to ask your district for. Setting up the right structure to do so, a lot of tools and really getting educated about what is possible, but it is possible and right now, the Chef Ann Foundation, we are celebrating our 10 year anniversary, can’t even believe it, we’ve always thought of ourselves as this tiny little organization that could. Now we’re pretty much the biggest national organization supporting cook-from-scratch in schools. We’ve supported 10,000 schools, we’ve reached nearly 3 million kids and at any given time, we have a waitlist of at least 400 schools for our grants. So schools are wanting to make change on their own, and that is exciting because the more change schools and districts make, the better chance it is that your school or district will have to make that same change.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
I love it. I mean wow, what astounding statistics for just 10 years, and it shows that the timing is right. People are interested in this and I think I love that you offer the parent advocacy toolkits because certainly going in and having a structured understanding and way of talking about it is very helpful. I also think it’s probably very valuable for all of us as parents to make our desires around this known to our districts because that helps them see that this is something important to the families in the district, right?
It’s very true. You have to be vocal, and I’ve had to be vocal about a number of things. I mean let me just tell you. My principal in my third grader school just switched lunch to before recess. So it’s pretty much known that you want lunch to be after recess so that your kids have worked it out, they’re hungry, it’s a quick lunch period anyways that we’re fighting with, so we want them to eat, the USDA is advocating for it. My principal just switched it, and in our district, he has that purview. I sent him an email just about twice a year, every quarter with different pieces of information and education around why people are advocating for this. I also talked to my friends and I asked them to do it too. I am never rude, and I am always polite and respectful, but I back it up with research.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
That’s so important to provide that education, but also to be kind and respectful but firm about what your stance is, because sometimes, especially when it comes to things like cafeteria food, unless we make our wishes known, unless we’re talking about it, the district just thinks this is okay, nobody really cares and yet I know, from working with so many families that people do care. I think we’re just not speaking up about it.
It’s very true, and I do think you have to find people like you and me in your district, because I mean I have certainly been on the PTA boards, I have done projects for schools that I get like putting gardens in and stuff like that, but if you listen and you hear what they’re most concerned about is academics. I mean that’s what you hear over and over, and I just think continuing to help people understand the connection between foundational nutrition and achievement is really important.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
So important and that’s really so much of what this show is about, is connecting the dots of those pieces. They are not separate things. Our educational institution, if they’re going to be focused on academic growth and benchmarks and furthering child development and learning, then they also have to be about things like giving kids quality food and giving them enough recess time to move their bodies and giving them playtime because it’s developmentally appropriate.
We can’t separate out academics from the rest of this and food is just such a critical thing, and I see it so often in practice where while food may not be the cause of a child’s developmental or mental health issues, man does it make a big difference in whether their symptoms are more manageable and they’re able to learn and grow in a better way, vs. not. And so that’s why I’m so passionate about this connection and about what organizations like yours are doing. You mentioned having an advocacy toolkit, I want to just spend a moment here at the end, making sure that people know where to go. You have a couple of different URLs and sites and we will include all of those in the show notes so people can access them, but where can people find you and these different initiatives?
So if you go to the chefannfoundation.org, there is a parent section on the menu, that’s where you can find the advocacy toolkit. I also recommend sending your district notifications when we have open grants. So we always have grants open for salad bars all the time. There is a grant section on that website and you can go right there and you can get the link to send, and then again, I want to say, the ‘Get Schools Cooking’ grant just opened August of 2019, and it only opens up every 18 months, so it’s almost a $200,000 grant per district. It’s amazing. So if you know that your district has been wanting to create change but just doesn’t have the infrastructure or the money, please send them the link for that.
One last thing I would say is that we really rely on people like yourself and others who understand the connection between nutrition and health and who understand it’s also an equity issue that we’re facing in our school system right now with 70% of the kids eating the lunch program being part of the free and reduced lunch program. The best way you can support our organization is to become a member and on our site, there is a membership. If you sign up for a membership, it’s $25 a month, you get this box from Ann, created a culinary gift for you, it’s handpicked by her, by Chef Ann. It’s amazing. It’s a recipe for this great salad that kids love with this bag of chickpeas and bamboo tongs and everything, so I would just say, for foundations like ours to have the support of funding coming in every month allows us to take our eye off that ball and focus on the work that we have to do to continue to make this happen.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
Awesome. Wonderful. Highly encourage everybody to go check out the website, the various initiatives, get involved with passing that information along to the people in your child’s district who are involved in decision making about these things and really just spread the word. An amazing foundation, amazing work that you are doing, Mara. I can’t thank you enough for being on the show today.
Thank you so much, I really appreciate it.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
Alright, everybody, that does it for this episode of The Better Behavior Show! We will see you back here next time.