Healthy Food, Healthy Lives

Project Title

Implementing Fresh Cooking in NYC Schools

Grant Amount


Priority Area

Healthy Food, Healthy Lives

Date Awarded

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 collaborated 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 conducted recipe testing and implemented a recipe-tasting program in 60 schools in Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens. With NYC DOE, WITS analyzed feedback to determine new fresh-cooked recipes for the citywide menu and analyzed equipment, staffing, and training needs at schools and provided a plan for improvement. It also carried 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 provided educational materials about and support the consumption of these new menu items.