Mission and History

Our mission is to provide school district administrators, food service directors, and their teams with the tools and resources they need to serve healthy, nutritious, and delicious food to every student, every day. Read on to learn more about the history of The Lunch Box.



Knowledge Sharing
Chef Ann Cooper and her school food colleagues begin sharing their experiences and knowledge about how to transform school lunch so that kids can grow up to be healthier and more productive adults.


The Aha! Moment
Chef Ann envisions a system change initiative in the form of a physical “lunch box” that would include all of the tools necessary for schools to make lunch healthier for our kids.


A Digital Decision
The system change initiative is reimagined as a free web portal called “The Lunch Box.” This digital tool would be an aggregator of content where best practices and hard-earned lessons are shared.


The Idea Takes Root
Chef Ann brings her idea to the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s Food and Society Initiative. Kellogg Foundation awards The Lunch Box Project a two-year planning grant. The Chez Panisse Foundation administers the grant.


A Concept is Created
A small team of renegade lunch ladies (the chefs), educators, marketers, thinkers, and technologists begin feasibility planning and concept building.


A Watershed Year
From Aha! to Ta-da! In 2009 The Lunch Box Project team moves at lightning speed to turn concept into reality, build a nonprofit foundation from scratch, generate funding for R&D, and engage in partnerships with tremendous potential for Americans to join the school food revolution.

Testing the Concept
A demonstration site is built for The Lunch Box Project. This demo site is used for focus group testing with key audiences: school food service, advocates, and funders. The feedback? “How soon can you build this? Because we really need it!”

Partners and Funders Join In


The Lunch Box 1.0 Launches
More than 100 scalable scratch-cook recipes are created, school-tested, and brought to the public. With nutrient analysis, preparation tips, and great flavors, schools can download them and use them for free. Other essential tools debut on The Lunch Box including: financial modeling tools, budget templates, downloadable, customizable calendars, and training videos.

More Advocates Step Up
New sponsors join in supporting The Lunch Box including Barbara’s Bakery, The Johnson Ohana Charitable Foundation, Google Grants, and Chipotle Mexican Grill.


Video Assistance Added
The Lunch Box adds over 20 new tutorial videos throughout the website for food service directors and staff.


Making the News
The Lunch Box is featured by Rachael Ray’s Yumo! Foundation and Forbes Magazine online.


Support Grows


The Lunch Box 2.0 Launches
For five years, that first iteration of The Lunch Box served as an important resource for thousands of schools and advocates working toward school food change. In 2014, the Chef Ann Foundation (CAF) releases this updated and expanded version to further help schools with school food transformation.

Talking About School Food with Chef Ann

Chef Ann Cooper and other notable school food reform advocates discuss the importance of healthy school food for kids.

From the Blog

The Lunch Box: Next Generation

Welcome back to The Lunch Box

You may have noticed that we’ve made a few changes…OK we’ve made many BIG changes. It is with great excitement that we move into the future with a new website, a new look, and most importantly, new ways to support schools...


Visit our Press Center for helpful links to information about who we are, what we do, and our School Food Fact Sheet.

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 Thank you to the Life Time Foundation for ensuring that all schools have free acces to The Lunch Box tools and resources!

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