Read what people are saying about ScratchWorks!
Surprise Moment with Alexia Blue
Nancy Easton spoke with Alexia Blue (Co-founder and CEO of Well+Good) about ScratchWorks at the Global Wellness Summit.
During COVID-19 Pandemic, Healthy School Food Practitioners Found Creative Ways to Cope
ScratchWorks was featured in an article on the ways school food professionals have dealt with the pandemic in FoodPrint.
One on One With: ScratchWorks
Mara Fleishman and Bertrand Weber spoke with Mike Buzalka for this episode of Food Management’s One on One podcast.
Build Back Better Act
ScratchWorks Celebrates the House Education and Labor Committee’s Investment in Scratch-Cooked School Meals, September 10, 2021
ScratchWorks joins advocates for healthier school meals in commending the House Education and Labor Committee on their Build Back Better Act for budget reconciliation, which makes needed investments in our schools’ kitchens, cafeterias, and nutrition education programs. We know from our members’ firsthand experiences that healthy, delicious school meals cooked from scratch using whole, fresh ingredients are essential for supporting our children’s health and learning, ensuring the sustainability of our food systems, and achieving nutrition equity in our country.
The Build Back Better Act recognizes the importance of scratch cooking and looks to expand its application in school districts across the country through these provisions:
- $500 million for schools to purchase the kitchen equipment needed to increase their level of scratch cooking;
- $25 million for schools to receive training and technical assistance on scratch cooking; and
- $634 million for schools to run programs expanding healthy food offerings, which will support increased scratch cooking.
This funding will help districts of all sizes serve more nutritious food, purchase more local ingredients, provide better career opportunities to their staff, and instill healthier eating habits in more students. The provision for training and technical assistance will also ensure that schools have the expert support they need to select and implement new kitchen equipment so that it aligns strategically with their nutrition goals.
ScratchWorks again applauds the House Education and Labor Committee for their meaningful commitment to healthier school meals. We especially want to express our gratitude to Chairman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott and Congresswoman Jahana Hayes for their strong leadership during this process and for their ongoing support of child nutrition.
We urge Congress to pass this legislation quickly and hope that today’s investments in school food pave the way for a near future where every child has daily access to fresh, healthy, delicious meals at school.
Over 100 School District Food Service Leaders Gather in Austin, Texas, for the First National Gathering to Increase Scratch Cooking, May 20, 3023
AUSTIN, Texas, May 10, 2023 (Newswire.com) – ScratchWorks, a collaborative to help school food professionals create a community to increase scratch cooking, held its first annual gathering in Austin, Texas, for more than 100 school district food service leaders from around the country.
The three-day event opened with remarks from founding member Nancy Easton, Executive Director of Wellness in the Schools, who stated, “We are not an organization, we are a collaborative; and this is not a conference, it is a gathering. There are no vendors here to sell you anything, only a space to connect and learn from each other.”
ScratchWorks was conceived during the summer of 2019 when a group of nonprofits and school food service operators came together to consider what could be done to accelerate change in school food. ScratchWorks was born, a collective of school food professionals and non-profit organizations, developed by and for food service operators, committed to supporting school districts in cooking school meals from scratch using whole, fresh ingredients. Unique to this collective is its funding model — the donors, Life Time Foundation and Whole Kids Foundation, are also its partners who continually collaborate with the districts to meet their goals.
A significant component of support offered by this collective was the development of a multi-day professional development and networking event that brought together school food programs from across the country wanting to increase their scratch cooking practices. The inaugural event took place in Austin, Texas, on April 24-26, 2023. Representatives from over 100 school districts came together for this multi-day event, featuring nearly 20 educational sessions led by school food operation leaders from across the country. Sessions included topics such as Scratch vs. Speed Scratch, Message Development for Your Program, Policies and Legislation Supporting Scratch Cooking, Recipe and Menu Development and many more. Founding member and Minneapolis Public Schools Director of Culinary and Wellness Services Bertrand Weber commented, “You could feel how different this event was and how invigorated attendees were after the three days. Building these relationships will ensure we have a network to lean on when we have questions.”
The event opened up with a keynote address by Chef Andrew Zimmern, TV personality, chef, writer and social justice advocate. Chef Zimmern applauded the attendees for pushing past the status quo and emphatically stated, “The question isn’t can we afford to do this? The fact is we can’t afford not to. It would cost us $17 billion to fully restore scratch cooking in our national public school system, including equipment, re-builds, product and staff. Sounds like a lot. But our federal budget is $6.3 trillion annually. So $17 billion is a rounding error when it comes to the cost; it’s 0.0027% of the federal budget.”
School food leaders from districts across 18 states and representing enrollment of over 1.1 million students shared in their excitement for a new kind of event. While there are many conferences that support a broad spectrum of school food operation topics, this gathering was the first national event to focus all of its educational sessions and experiences around scratch cooking in schools. It is well known that scratch cooking presents more complexities than serving packaged food and ScratchWorks believes that bringing leaders together to share their experiences and build relationships is one of the most significant things that can be done to increase scratch cooking in schools in the country.
The closing session was an interview with USDA’s Food and Nutrition Services Administrator Cindy Long who offered up her philosophy on scratch cooking in schools. “What I feel like I’ve learned is that there is no one answer for every circumstance. Scratch cooking clearly offers benefits. You have much more control. You can tailor to your community. It supports engagement and connection with food.”
When the floor was opened for questions, district leaders asked about the new proposed rule, particularly around more stringent sodium standards. Administrator Long emphasized that new proposed updates to the nutrition standards are to be executed over 10 years and they are applied to a menu cycle not a meal so with scratch cooking, there is more flexibility.
Since cooking and food were at the core of the experience, districts were encouraged to submit their recipes prior as event planners chose breakfast and lunch menus. Some of the favorites included a Chickpea Masala submitted by Bellingham Washington Public Schools and a Cambodian Lok Lak served at Lowell Public Schools in Massachusetts, which caters to its local Southeast Asian student population.
ScratchWorks is a collective of school food professionals and non-profit organizations committed to supporting school districts in cooking school meals from scratch using whole, fresh ingredients that provide students with the nutrition they need for their educational success, health and wellbeing. Founding members include Andrew Benson, Ann Cooper, Amy Maclosky, Ryan Mikolaycik, Stephen O’Brien and Bertrand Weber as well as Chef Ann Foundation, Life Time Foundation, Wellness in the Schools and Whole Kids Foundation
Arizona DOE Announces New Health and Nutrition Program “Creating Your Kithcen” with Key Community Partners, September 8, 2021
PHOENIX – The Arizona Department of Education’s Health and Nutrition Services Team is excited to announce a brand-new program, “Creating Your Kitchen” to support schools in their work to exceed standards, and provide their students with healthy, nutritious meals. With funding support from Life Time Foundation and Whole Kids Foundation, this two-phase program is designed to provide 10 Arizona Local Educational Agencies (LEAs) with the expertise and support needed to reclaim their kitchens and menus as they recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is no secret that our schools have been severely impacted by COVID, including health and nutrition operations. As Arizona schools continue to navigate, and recover from COVID-19, the ADE and our partners in this effort also recognize the current opportunity we have to transform our school meal programs post-COVID. The “Creating Your Kitchen” partners will work with schools to assess operations, finances, and food procured to offer schools a path toward serving less pre-packaged (or pre-made) and more fresh foods in schools. Operational support partners for this initiative are part of the ScratchWorks collective, a newly launched initiative founded by school food operators and organizations dedicated to scratch cooking in schools.
“Over the past year, it has become clear to everyone that one of our schools most essential services is providing healthy, nutritious meals to every student. I am grateful to have a team that is willing to view the hardship of this past year as an opportunity to improve and innovate all to better serve Arizona’s students and families,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman. “With the help of professionals like the Chef Ann Foundation, Life Time Foundation, Whole Kids Foundation, ScratchWorks and the incomparable team of experts at ADE and within Arizona schools, I can hardly wait to see the results of this one-of-a-kind effort.”
“Improving the quality of school meals in the wake of COVID-19 is incredibly important. We’re proud to help districts take a systems approach to scratch cooking that will improve food quality, and foodservice department budgets,” said Anneliese Tanner, Director of Research and Assessment at the Chef Ann Foundation. “We are grateful that the Arizona Department of Education is taking a proactive approach and making this a priority for Arizona school districts.”
“I am so excited for the opportunity to serve the state of Arizona and am particularly inspired by the collaborative approach of this initiative. Over the years we have built such wonderful partnerships with the various organizations involved and we now have this unique opportunity to use our different strengths towards one shared goal. Together, we will support school districts to provide the best food possible to students, so they are ready to learn and live healthy, happy lives. To engage in this collaborative work with the amazing School Food Professionals and the AZ Department of Education is extraordinary. I applaud the incredible passion and dedication that the team at DOE has for the districts they serve. We are honored to be part of this work. We are so much stronger together!” said Valeria La Rosa, Senior Manager of the Life Time Foundation.
Throughout this partnership, ADE will work alongside the “Creating Your Kitchen” team to develop the framework for future iterations of this work to provide the same level of support to other schools in Arizona.
Launch Press Release: US School Food Leaders Form “ScratchWorks” Collective to Accelerate Scratch Cooking, October 13, 2020
ScratchWorks is a trade-driven collective of school food professionals and nonprofit organizations committed to supporting school districts in cooking meals from scratch using whole, fresh ingredients, providing students with the nutrition they need for their educational success, health, and wellbeing.
ScratchWorks began in the spring of 2019 with a commitment from six food service directors and six supporting organizations to envision a new possibility: to design a collective vision for the future of nutritious school meals.
“We need this now more than ever. I have worked in school food for many years and have long envisioned an effort like ScratchWorks to support my peers,” said Bertrand Weber, Director of Culinary & Wellness Services for Minneapolis Public Schools in Minnesota. “The pandemic has made it more difficult for school food teams to serve scratch-cooked meals, but we stay focused on that as our goal. We have to commit ourselves to do what is possible now and make sure we continue to move forward when we return to a traditional school meal schedule.”
Research shows the benefits of cooking school meals from scratch using fresh, unprocessed ingredients. Not only do childhood obesity rates decrease among students with access to healthy food at school, but their measurable academic performance improves as well. Scratch cooking is also a financially sustainable food service model for districts; since they can set their own recipes, scratch-cook programs have more control over the cost of their ingredients than if they were to purchase pre-processed items from a food supplier. The ability to purchase whole ingredients locally also contributes to the local food economy and a more environmentally sustainable way of preparing food in schools.
Scratch cooking is also a key part of the solution to food inequity experienced by many Black and Hispanic communities in the United States. According to a 2019 report by UConn’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, food-related companies target Black and Hispanic youth at significantly higher rates than their white peers with advertisements for fast food, candy, sugary drinks, and snacks––all of which are significant contributors to poor diets and diet-related diseases.
The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) is the second largest food relief program in the country, providing a unique opportunity for equal access to healthy, scratch-cooked meals that are rich in nutrients, protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Providing more scratch-cooked school meals could reduce the rate at which students consume ultra-processed foods.
Recognizing the abundance of research that demonstrates the benefits of scratch-cooked school meals, ScratchWorks is proud to be the first professional organization dedicated to providing space for food service professionals to network, share resources, and lend their support to colleagues interested in preparing meals from scratch.
While the School Nutrition Association (SNA)––the only trade organization supporting school food professionals––offers tracks and panels on scratch cooking at their conferences, SNA is not itself an affinity group for food service professionals dedicated to scratch cooking.
“Scratch cooking is no longer considered a niche in school food,” said Anneliese Tanner, founding member of ScratchWorks and Executive Director of Food Services at Austin Independent School District in Texas. “Districts of all sizes are trying to move toward scratch cooking and need a peer network to provide a touchstone for support throughout their journey.”
ScratchWorks will develop three unique programs that will help their members move towards scratch cooking:
- Advocacy: ScratchWorks will partner with an experienced advocacy group to better understand the guidance and legislation needed to increase opportunities for scratch cooking in schools based on current needs and key issues.
- Annual Gathering: ScratchWorks is targeting late 2021/early 2022 for its first Annual Gathering that will provide education and networking opportunities. ScratchWorks will wait and see how the pandemic unfolds to determine a final date.
- Mentorship Program: This initiative will match experienced scratch-cook school food leaders with emerging professionals. The framework of the mentorship program has been outlined and implementation of this initiative will happen in early 2022.
“Scratch cooking is absolutely achievable, and the ScratchWorks network of operators that have successfully transformed perceptions, values, and beliefs surrounding school food are prepared and ready to support districts nationwide,” said Robert Jaber, founding member of ScratchWorks and Executive Director of Food and Nutrition Services for District of Columbia Public Schools.
These district leaders, school food operators, and nonprofit organizations have worked collectively for decades to advance scratch cooking in school food, provide students with higher quality nutrition, and help kids create lifelong habits that connect the food they eat to their health and the health of our planet.
“I get calls every week from school food teams that want to visit my district to see how we cook from scratch,” said Chef Ann Cooper, Food Services Director at Boulder Valley School District in Colorado. “We need a trade group these people can turn to, to connect with others that are cooking from scratch or trying to.”
The founders of this collaborative came together to better support school districts and school food professionals in transitioning to scratch cooking. From their discussion, collaboration, and commitment to change, ScratchWorks was born.
Founding School Food Service Members:
Ann Cooper – Director of Food Services, Boulder Valley School District | Boulder, CO
Robert Jaber – Executive Director of Food & Nutrition Services, District of Columbia Public Schools | Washington, DC
Amy Maclosky – Director of Food & Nutrition Services, Arlington Public Schools | Arlington, VA
Stephen O’Brien – Director of Strategic Partnerships & Policy, Food & Nutrition Services, NYC Department of Education | New York City, NY
Anneliese Tanner – Executive Director of Food Services & Warehouse Operations, Austin Independent School District | Austin, TX
Bertrand Weber – Director of Culinary & Wellness Services, Minneapolis Public Schools | Minneapolis, MN
Chef Ann Foundation
Harlem Children’s Zone
Life Time Foundation
Wellness in the Schools
Whole Kids Foundation
ScratchWorks is a collective of school food professionals and non-profit organizations committed to supporting school districts in cooking school meals from scratch using whole, fresh ingredients that provide students with the nutrition they need for their educational success, health, and wellbeing.
Contact: Sam Hahn
For media and press inquires, please email Eriko Greeson.