20 Most Influential: Ann Cooper, Boulder Valley School District

The Renegade Lunch Lady works hard to bring together communities to create a healthy school lunch program.


Ann Cooper
Director of Foodservice,
Boulder Valley School District,
Boulder, Colo.

Ann Cooper calls herself the Renegade Lunch Lady. What Cooper does shouldn’t be considered renegade. She’s simply bringing together communities to create a healthy school lunch program. So why all the fuss?

School districts can be notoriously laden with bureaucratic red tape. Add foodservice into the conversation, and some school administrators become downright hostile. Cooper has been smart about the selection of districts she’s attempted to tackle. First, Berkeley and now Boulder, two cities where community involvement, health and wellness, and, perhaps most importantly, money are bountiful.

In both districts Cooper has fostered a community effort revolving around bettering the school meals program. Cooper’s persistence and determination have been instrumental in creating this collaboration.

Cooper’s aim is to bring “natural, simpler, ‘clean’ ingredient labels void of additives, colorings and preservatives” onto the menus in Boulder. She’s eliminated chocolate milk, added a salad bar in every cafeteria and cut highly processed items like chicken nuggets from the menus.

Cooper’s influence doesn’t stop within Boulder’s city limits. She’s an advocate for healthier school meals and regularly appears in the national media speaking about the need for reform. In 2009, Cooper founded the Food Family Farming Foundation, a nonprofit organization “created to empower schools to serve nutritious whole foods to all students,” according to the company’s website. One of the foundation’s tools, the Lunch Box, is an online consortium of healthy recipes, technical tools and resources. True to Cooper’s form, the Lunch Box features a community section where others can share their thoughts and read about the good work being done in school nutrition.  


Foodservice Director has undertaken a bold initiative by identifying people who we believe are having the biggest impact on non-commercial foodservice. Our list may surprise you and should certainly intrigue you. Our honorees have backgrounds as varied as their personalities. They range from the father of the modern-day food truck to the wife of a sitting president. They include operators and suppliers, chefs and consultants, CEOs and civil servants. There are traditionalists and there are mavericks. Well-known names share space with hot newcomers. In all, 17 people, two groups of individuals and one institution compose the list. It’s time to meet FSD’s 20 Most Influential.

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation
oversized portions

Here are the trends FSD's Chefs’ Council members wish would go away.

Kale Gluten-free Sriracha Chipotle Microgreens on everything Sous vide cooking Aversion to bread Healthy desserts Vegan diets Lies about local sourcing/organic food Fast food Cupcakes Pumpkin spice Fat-free or low-fat Meatless Mondays Bread cones Rigid child nutrition guidelines Bacon on everything Cajun Doughnuts with over-the-top toppings Oversized portions Fried foods Pinterest
Ideas and Innovation
Frose

Frose, sushi burgers and single-item restaurants are hot topics as of late, according to Forbes, which recently released a list of seven buzzwords in the foodservice world. Here’s what’s trending, in no particular order.

Blended burgers Frozecco and frose Goth food Hemp Single-item restaurants Sushi burger Upcycling
Industry News & Opinion
MeuDirections

One of my favorite cartoons shows a commander whose soldiers are in the midst of fighting a war with bows and arrows. Without turning around, he tells a man who has come up behind him, “I’m sorry, I’m too busy to talk to you.” The man was a rifle salesman.

In today’s time-pressed world, we are all too busy. So, it can be difficult to find time to reach out to others for ideas, solutions and best practices. But as that cartoon illustrates, it’s critical to being successful. The sharing of knowledge is a pillar of FoodService Director . Through our magazine and events, we have been...

Ideas and Innovation
chefs

We started inviting chefs and FSDs from other districts to come prepare lunch. Through featuring different chefs and chef-inspired meals, I’ve found the students have been looking forward to coming into the cafeteria. They are willing to try new things with crazy names, and to ask for their favorite outside items turned healthy.

FSD Resources