Implementing Fresh Cooking in NYC Schools
Healthy Food, Healthy Lives
December 14, 2022
Free school meals improve physical health, mental wellbeing, and academic performance.
Students who eat school meals every day have better diets than students who do not; they consume more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Additionally, when meals are free to all, the stigma and shame associated with school lunch decreases. Improving the quality and appeal of school food and cafeteria environments is important to fulfill the promise of free lunch for all. New York City is now committed to transform school meals from frozen and pre-prepared items to freshly cooked meals in partnership with Wellness in the Schools (WITS). The initiative, called Chefs Move to NYC Schools, will revise the New York City school food menu and its purchasing agreements in favor of fresh foods. In 2022, NYHealth awarded WITS a grant to implement freshly cooked meals in New York City schools.
Under this grant, WITS will collaborate with the New York City Department of Education (NYC DOE) and a newly-formed Chef Council, which includes celebrated chefs, culinary industry professionals, and food activists. WITS will conduct recipe testing and implement a recipe-tasting program in 60 schools in Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens. With NYC DOE, WITS will analyze feedback to determine new fresh-cooked recipes for the citywide menu and analyze equipment, staffing, and training needs at schools and provide a plan for improvement. It will also carry out professional development and training to sharpen NYC DOE cooks’ culinary skills and understanding of the value of fresh-cooked, plant-based, culturally relevant meals. Finally, WITS and its partners will provide educational materials about and support the consumption of these new menu items.