20 Most Influential: Tim Cipriano, New Haven Public Schools

Known as the Local Food Dude, Cipriano has made it his mission to bring healthy, sustainable fare to school lunch.

In child nutrition there’s a dichotomy between obesity and hunger. In the New England city that Yale calls home, Tim Cipriano is combatting both sides of that food coin.

Tim Cipriano

Executive Director of Food Services,

New Haven Public Schools,

New Haven, Conn.

In child nutrition there’s a dichotomy between obesity and hunger. In the New England city that Yale calls home, Tim Cipriano is combatting both sides of that food coin.

Cipriano came to the district in the summer of 2008 to transition the department to self-op and remake the program into a healthy dining experience. He knew he couldn’t change the system overnight and alienate the students, 80% of whom qualify for free or reduced-priced meals, so he made little changes like switching all breads to whole grain. He then started making more “real food,” such as using fresh potatoes instead of canned to make mashed potatoes. Cipriano also eliminated chicken nuggets, a school lunch staple, instead opting for whole chickens to make roasted chicken breasts.

Living up to his moniker, the Local Food Dude, Cipriano has worked with the schools to plant gardens and to use that produce in the students’ meals. Cipriano was also instrumental in starting the Chefs Move to Schools program and sits on the steering committee for the CIA’s Healthy Flavors, Healthy Kids conference.

“We are on the forefront of hunger,” Cipriano told FSD. “There are children in our schools who rely on New Haven School food as their only nutrition of the day and that saddens me.” Cipriano might be sad, but he’s fighting back.

“Tim is completely committed to making sure kids in America get the healthy food they need, not just enough food,” says Debbie Shore, co-founder of Share Our Strength, a national nonprofit working to end childhood hunger in America. “Tim has been a longtime and tireless supporter of Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign on local and national levels. We have benefitted tremendously from his influence as a school nutrition innovator and community leader in New Haven and his willingness to always do more.” 


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

Industry News & Opinion
millennial employee handshake

Boy, is it ever fun being a member of the millennial generation. On the one hand, there’s a bevy of seasoned bosses and co-workers who typecast us as lazy, easily distracted, entitled upstarts who don’t value older generations’ experience. And on the other hand, there’s an economy that we entered at the exact wrong time that—while it is recovering—required us to settle for less pay and fewer benefits at the beginning of our careers, stunting our growth trajectory right from the start. (Whoops, there I go playing right into our complain-y stereotype.)

Like us or not, the millennial...

Ideas and Innovation
fidget spinner

While they may be a nuisance to parents, restaurants are finding an unexpected use for trendy fidget spinners. A chef at Houston seafood spot Reef posted a video to Instagram to show off the new technique: dripping sauce over the toy while it’s spinning on a plate to make creative designs.

Sponsored Content
ballpark stadium food trends

From Bush’s Best ® .

Whether it’s at a college or university, a minor league game or a major league game, sports stadiums offer an array of delicious foods that sports fans love. A look at what’s happening in stadiums’ food offerings spotlights a few trends that foodservice directors should keep an eye on and adapt for their own menus.

1. More pork options

According to Technomic’s MenuMonitor, powered by Ignite, instances of pork on stadium menus have increased 33% year-over-year. Going ultra-indulgent with pork is trending, too—Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., serves...

Sponsored Content
blended burger mushrooms

From The James Beard Foundation.

Blending meat and mushrooms in burgers and other iconic foods is a major trend heralded by a number of trendsetters and publications.

As many know, this trend was started by college and university chefs and dining directors because they could create better burgers (and meatballs, tacos and meatloaf) by blending at least 25% ground mushrooms in with beef. These operators knew that “the blend” was better-tasting, better for the environment, better nutritionally and better for holding because of the juicier texture.

In return for being...

FSD Resources