Building Healthy Communities

Project Title

Return to Scratch Cooking Development Study

Grant Amount


Priority Area

Building Healthy Communities

Date Awarded

August 6, 2018






There is evidence to suggest that scratch cooking in school lunch programs can have a positive impact on health-promoting behaviors.

A 2015 study showed that scratch cooking or chef-enhanced meals in school cafeterias increased long-term fruit and vegetable consumption. Yet limited research exists on how school districts can successfully transition from pre-prepared food service to scratch cooking all meals, and what the outcomes of that change are for the school, community, and students. In 2018, NYHealth awarded the Teachers College at Columbia University a grant to evaluate and document a pilot of New York City Department of Education’s Return to Scratch Cooking Program (RSCP) in public schools.

Under this grant, the Laurie M. Tisch Center for Food, Education, & Policy at Teachers College evaluated the RSCP pilot to bring scratch-made meals to students at New York City public schools. RSCP placed chefs in school kitchens, who reshaped school meals from pre-prepared food to fresh, scratch-cooked meals. The Tisch Center collected data and observed activities in preparation for the implementation of RSCP and its rollout in fall 2018. The Tisch Center’s evaluation of the program will help other City schools and school districts understand, anticipate, and manage the institutional changes required to make similar transitions in their own school lunch programs.

Read the report “Cooking Outside the Box: How a Scratch Cooking Pilot in the Bronx Is Reshaping Meals in New York City Schools.”