Two Non-Profits, One Incredible Mission: Casey Feldman Scholarship Recipients Close the Gap between Poor Nutrition & School Lunches 

Thursday, May 5th, 2022

By Savannah Mather*

Photo by Kristen Boyer for the Chef Ann Foundation

Over the past few years, three students from the University of Colorado Boulder received Casey Feldman Foundation scholarships for their internships at the Chef Ann Foundation, a nationally expanding non-profit. With akin to mission-driven values and a dedication to raising awareness like the Casey Feldman Foundation, the Chef Ann Foundation is a pioneer in efforts to make school lunches healthier, more nutritious, and sustainable. Our scholarship recipients have contributed to that goal and learned valuable skills in the process. 

The Importance of Healthy School Lunches and the Founding of the Chef Ann Foundation

For many kids, school lunch is one of the most important meals of their day, which means it should be nutritious and healthy, right? Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Food distributors that provide schools with products such as meat have been criticized for many years due to their lacking quality standards. The Chef Ann Foundation recognized the disparity between wholesome lunches and their accessibility, resulting in a pledge to provide schools across the country a massive culinary upgrade.  

Founded in 2009 by Chef Ann Cooper in Boulder, Colorado, the Chef Ann Foundation works with both private and public schools in all 50 states, and has provided over 3.3 million kids with healthier meals. Before starting the Chef Ann Foundation, Cooper was the Food Service Director for Boulder Valley School District where she saw the need for more resources and support in improving school lunches. The solution: Introducing scratch cooked meals.

“It’s really the difference between heat and serve: opening a bag of chicken nuggets or a bag of chicken patties and putting them in the oven to reheat versus having raw chicken, breading it, baking, using fresh fruits and vegetables, whole ingredients, that type of thing,” Emily Gallivan, the director of programs at the Chef Ann Foundation said. 

Gallivan began working at the foundation six years ago, after receiving her masters in food studies at Chatham University. Gallivan found that what stood out in the Chef Ann Foundation is its dedication to providing proper nutrition to students and educating local school systems in utilizing scratch cooking. 

The National Education Association found that “One out of six children lacks consistent access to the food needed for fueling their bodies and minds” (National Education Association, 2021). When students don’t receive proper nutrition, their ability to learn, concentrate, and behave is negatively impacted. 

“It really revolves around a couple of key areas. It supports academic success for students, it can be the primary source of food and nutrition for some students throughout the day, and we often hear that a hungry kid can’t learn,” Gallivan said. 

The Chef Ann Foundation website offers a multitude of resources for educators and supporters to learn about the importance of scratch food cooking in schools, one of them being the Lunchbox. The Lunchbox is an online toolkit that anyone can access for free that provides step-by-step guides on scratch cooking, as well as recipes and resources for schools that want to convert their food system to more healthy, nutritious meals. According to Gallivan, the foundation also granted around 6,000 salad bars to school districts across the nation through the Salad Bars to Schools program which launched in 2010. 

Over 22 million kids rely on free or reduced-price lunches as well, which means that the meals they eat at school are oftentimes when they receive the most sustenance and nutrients during the day. 

“It can also be a big equity issue,” Gallivan said, “We want every child to have a healthy meal everyday and so that shouldn’t matter what your background, race, ethnicity, or family’s financial situation is. None of that should matter when it comes to what you’re able to eat at school.” 

Casey Feldman Foundation Scholarship Interns Work With the Chef Ann Foundation

With a small in-office team, however, the Chef Ann Foundation relies on the help of interns and volunteers to support their mission in making healthy school lunches widely available.  The Casey Feldman Foundation has since sponsored and awarded a stipend to three students who have interned at the Chef Ann Foundation throughout the years, and all three of which were deemed as excellent resources during their time. 

“They’ve been huge assets to our team and they’ve contributed to a variety of our projects. We are always moving fast and doing a lot of different projects,” Gallivan said, “It’s been a huge support for us.”

These three interns, Anna Hadjiyiannis, Ally Roberts, and Heidi Kathleen Stimac, contributed to digital marketing and brand awareness, summarized new food studies research and reports, wrote blogs on the foundation’s website, interviewed food service directors, developed fundraising reports, and contributed to overall project management. 

“We want them to come away with a much better understanding of some of those complexities,” Gallivan said, “And also stronger organizational skills, managing deadlines, and working with a team as well as independently.” 

2018 Scholarship Recipient Inspired to Pursue Philanthropy Work

Heidi Stimac, a graduate from the University of Colorado Boulder, interned at the Chef Ann Foundation in 2018. Stimac now works in the philanthropy department for a large non-profit organization called Rotary International and said that her experience at the foundation propelled her career at another non-profit. 

“I was like okay, this is an environment that I want to be in. The mission driven aspect of it was something that became really important to me, and still is really important to me,” Stimac said. 

According to Gallivan, sponsored Casey Feldman Foundation interns were a huge help in their team’s success, and it was equally as rewarding to provide valuable professional skills that they could take with them in their future careers. 

“The people that work there are great, and they were so happy to try and help me learn what I wanted to learn and work on projects that I wanted to work on. It was a good experience all together,” Stimac said. 

The Casey Feldman Foundation rewards many hard-working students who participate in unpaid internships that are mission-driven. Without the stipend, Stimac said wouldn’t have been able to have the experience of working at the Chef Ann Foundation. 

“The Casey Feldman Foundation made all of that possible, and I’m so grateful because I would not be working where I am or doing what I’m doing now if I hadn’t had that experience at the Chef Ann Foundation,” Stimac said.

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*Savannah graduated from the University of Colorado Boulder Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor’s degree in journalism in December, 2021. She was the first recipient of the Casey Feldman CU Journalism Scholarship stipend.  Savannah is pursuing a career in multimedia & digital content creation, and hopes to someday write for an environmental nonprofit group.