We’re excited to announce that 500 Whole Kids Foundation Garden Grants — each worth $3,000 — will be awarded to schools and nonprofit organizations starting or expanding their edible learning spaces. This $1.5 million investment will support more than 250,000 students by providing garden grants in 49 U.S. states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, ten Canadian provinces, and one Canadian territory!
Whole Kids Foundation is built on a spirit of collaboration, and we act as a catalyst for change by investing in partnerships with respected experts in the fields of nutrition and education.
Together, we amplify each other’s efforts to improve children's nutrition and wellness.
Throughout 2023, we are spotlighting our current partners and how these organizations are growing the next generation of healthy eaters.
ScratchWorks is a collective of school food professionals and non-profit organizations committed to providing children the healthiest meals possible by 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.
A true collaboration, ScratchWorks was born from several visions that came together as one to create something more expansive and inclusive. In 2017, Bertrand Weber from Minneapolis Public Schools, Kim Herrington from Whole Kids Foundation, and others started developing a plan to bring School Food Professionals together for a gathering that was focused on whole foods, nourishing meals and that was not industry led. In 2018, Kim Herrington met with Nancy Easton from Wellness in the Schools to talk programs in NYC and instead dove into Nancy's dream to create a school food innovation lab — building best practices for districts to create healthy, nutritious, and delicious school meals. Pulling in scratch cooking experts Mara Fleishman and Chef Ann Cooper from the Chef Ann Foundation and Valeria LaRosa from Life Time Foundation, Nancy Easton convened a group of Food Service Directors and partner non-profit organizations in NYC in 2019 to co-create a collective vision of possibility for the future of school meals.
These founding members created the Scratch Cooking Continuum to support the evolution for districts to move towards scratch cooking, and initiated a focus on the following three pillars:
- Advocacy - advocating for legislation to ensure that school food programs have the funding, resources, operational flexibility, and foundational sustainability needed to serve the healthiest and freshest food possible to their communities.
- Shared Learning - developing a mechanism for Food Service Directors to provide peer support to advance their programs along a scratch cooking continuum.
- Gathering - bringing school food professionals interested in scratch cooking together to share, learn, and connect bi-annually. In our Inaugural Gathering in Austin, April '23, we focused on Communications & Policy, Culinary, and Procurement.
We reached out to Nancy and Mara to get the scoop on ScratchWorks and what they’re looking forward to when it comes to the future of school food.
WHOLE KIDS FOUNDATION (WKF): WHAT IS SCRATCHWORKS' (SW) APPROACH TO ADVANCING CHILDREN’S NUTRITION AND WELLNESS?
ScratchWorks: ScratchWorks was created to build a collective of school food professionals and non-profit organizations committed to providing children the healthiest meals possible by 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.
HOW DOES SW SUPPORT SCHOOL DISTRICTS AND HOW DOES THAT WORK IMPACT THE LARGER SCHOOL NUTRITION MOVEMENT?
ScratchWorks plays a crucial role in supporting school food programs by facilitating collaboration, knowledge sharing, and advocacy within the school nutrition landscape.
Collaboration: ScratchWorks brings together school food operators who share a common goal of increasing scratch cooking to provide healthier meal options for students. By creating a network of like-minded professionals, these programs encourage collaboration and the exchange of best practices. This collaborative environment allows school districts to learn from each other's experiences, successes, and challenges. The sharing of knowledge enables districts to implement effective strategies for improving their food, such as incorporating more fresh, whole ingredients and reducing the reliance on processed foods.
The collaborative environment fostered by ScratchWorks allows school food operators to access a wealth of knowledge and expertise. This enables districts to continually improve the health and quality of their meal programs. School food operators can learn about the latest trends in nutrition, menu planning, sourcing local ingredients, and engaging students in healthier eating habits. As these districts implement successful strategies, their collective efforts contribute to the advancement of the larger school nutrition movement.
Advocacy and Amplification: Another vital role ScratchWorks plays is advocating for scratch cooking in school food programs. By bringing together a collective voice of school food operators who are committed to healthier food options, ScratchWorks can advocate for policy changes and increased support at both the local and national levels. This advocacy amplifies the impact of the school nutrition movement, garnering attention and resources to drive positive changes in school meal programs.
Through these initiatives, districts can collectively work towards increasing scratch cooking, enhancing the quality of school meals, and advocating for healthier nutrition options. Our approach, one that is both collaborative and supportive, fosters a safe space for school food operators to learn from each other and to acknowledge challenges. By acknowledging the many challenges and bringing them to the forefront, we can then work collectively to help remove such barriers. This community serves as a platform for discussing innovative ideas, troubleshooting issues, and seeking advice.
WHY ARE SW'S EFFORTS TO SUPPORT SCRATCH COOKING IN DISTRICTS SO IMPORTANT TO CHILDREN?
ScratchWorks plays a pivotal role in improving children's health by promoting scratch cooking in districts. Evidence has mounted that ultra-processed foods, common in the US, are a direct cause of chronic illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Amid rising consumption of unhealthy ultra-processed foods, scratch cooking in schools offers a vital solution. Scratch cooking in schools allows for control of sugar, salt and fat and an increase of whole ingredients. Providing scratch cooked meals in schools fosters early exposure to nutrient-rich meals and a lifelong appreciation for nutritious choices. This approach also provides educational benefits, introduces diverse flavors, and expands children's food preferences. ScratchWorks support for scratch cooking helps equip children with essential tools for a lifetime of balanced nutrition.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE IMPACT OF THE PARTNERSHIP BETWEEN WHOLE KIDS FOUNDATION AND SCRATCHWORKS OVER THE YEARS?
Whole Kids Foundation has been a critical partner to ScratchWorks since its very inception. In fact, the initial concept was an evolution of collective ideas, from Whole Kids Foundation, food service directors and nonprofits. Whole Kids Foundation was instrumental in the launch of the initiative when it was just a seed of an idea, and they have remained with us through our growth. Notably, Whole Kids Foundation hosted the initial ideation and brought the concept to life right at headquarters in Austin! Subsequently, Whole Kids Foundation played a crucial role in supporting the Inaugural ScratchWorks Gathering in Austin, TX in April 2023. This pioneering event, entirely devoted to promoting scratch cooking in schools, garnered widespread acclaim from school food operators nationwide. By providing unique forms of support and fostering collaboration, the Whole Kids Foundation and ScratchWorks partnership has contributed to the advancement of ScratchWorks, ensuring that school food operators who want to increase scratch cooking in their program have a place to land and network.
WHAT CURRENT OR UPCOMING PROJECT OR PROGRAM IS SCRATCHWORKS EXCITED ABOUT RIGHT NOW?
Coming off a spring Gathering, and heading into another school year, we are looking forward to bringing to life the three pillars upon which ScratchWorks was founded. We are currently building an official participant base, expanding our advisory team and forming subcommittees to lead policy, shared learning and planning for the next gathering (in 2 years).
Policy will remain focused on bringing scratch cooked initiatives to life at local and federal levels. We are particularly excited about putting structure around the shared learning platform in order to seamlessly facilitate the conversations and learnings. And, of course, we have already begun planning our 2025 gathering - to ensure that the learnings and experiences are even more enriching than Austin 2023!