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

Managing Your Business
uber driver

The freelance, independent-contractor labor market known as the gig economy is distinguished by working short-term contracts, or gigs, such as driving for Uber, Lyft or Instacart.

The majority of the U.S. workforce will be freelancers by 2027, according to a study called “Freelancing in America: 2017,” conducted by Edelman Intelligence. The annual study, commissioned in partnership by the Freelancers Union and Upwork Global, estimates that 36% of the U.S. workforce consists of freelancers who contribute approximately $1.4 trillion annually—an increase of almost 30% over the...

Industry News & Opinion

Sturgeon Bay Schools in Sturgeon Bay, Wis., has partnered with a local farm to construct a school greenhouse , Green Bay Press Gazette reports.

Construction will begin soon, and the district says that the project is already 75% funded. Once the building is finished, students will be able to grow their own food at the greenhouse and then learn how to preserve it through canning and other methods.

“The greenhouse will provide students with the opportunity to grow food, sample food they have cultivated, design planting plans, tend seedlings, integrate real-life technology in...

Sponsored Content
eating mac and cheese

From AFP advanced food products llc

Some iconic food pairings have stood the test of time―peanut butter and jelly, spaghetti and meatballs, macaroni and cheese, just to name a few.

But, classic doesn’t mean boring or on the way out. In fact, there’s been a resurgence of mac and cheese on menus. According to 2018 data from Technomic’s MenuMonitor, mac and cheese menu mentions have grown by the following percentages over the past four years:

On the kids menu: 10.4% As an entree: 7.5% As a side/extra: 8.2%

In addition to increasing menu instances, noncommercial...

Sponsored Content
seafood salad

From High Liner Foods.

Seafood—whether it’s in the form of fish and chips or tuna salad—is a menu staple for many foodservice locations. But seafood doesn’t have to be limited to just the center of the plate—it shines on other parts of the menu as well, from soups and salads to sides and snacks.

Here are four ways that seafood and fish are moving outside of the main course.

Soups

Starting the meal with soup is common for many diners, and in noncommercial settings, there’s usually an array of soups available each day. According to Technomic’s 2017 Center of the...

FSD Resources

Code for Asynchronous jQuery Munchkin Tracking Code