The Chef Ann Foundation is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting whole-ingredient, scratch cooking in schools. Scratch cooking enables schools to serve the healthiest, tastiest meals so that kids are well-nourished and ready to learn. Founded in 2009 by Chef Ann Cooper, the Chef Ann Foundation has supported more than 14,000 schools and reached 3.4 million kids with its scratch-cooking focused programs.

Beans are a small but mighty ingredient that can drive lasting change in school kitchens and cafeterias. Learning doesn’t stop at the cafeteria doors — students have the opportunity to learn about healthy and sustainable food choices and their impact on the environment. More and more, K-12 students are expressing interest in eating delicious climate-friendly meals, and are encouraging many school food programs to add plant-forward options to their menu cycles. With 33 million students participating in the National School Lunch Program annually, school food programs play a major role in shaping our food system today and tomorrow. 

In 2022, the Chef Ann Foundation joined the Beans is How Bean Coalition as a founding partner. We know that beans release 90% less greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere than some animal proteins. In addition to being climate-friendly, the legume family is an excellent source of protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. Beans are also highly versatile — a great quality that helps with menu planning for a large number of students every school day.

Speaking of their versatility: under the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s meal patterns, which are federal nutritional standards schools participating in the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program must adhere to, beans and legumes offer a unique advantage as they can be credited as either a meat alternative or as a vegetable meal component.

In addition to being a sustainable and nutrient-rich ingredient, beans play a central role in diets across the globe. This offers school food professionals opportunities to incorporate beans into menu items that celebrate a wide array of cultures. Further, beans and legumes are an inexpensive alternative to meat proteins — often, school food program budgets don’t cover the full costs of operating meal programs, making budget-friendly ingredients like beans especially valuable.

A central part of the Chef Ann Foundation’s work is designing healthy and delicious scratch-cook recipes for schools that adhere to the USDA’s nutritional standards. To celebrate School Meals Day, we’re excited to share some of these recipes with you!

Black Bean Veggie Burger

Our Black Bean Veggie Burger is a fantastic choice for school food professionals who are in the initial stages of introducing scratch-cooked, plant-forward meals to their menus. Made with black beans, onions, green peppers, and jalapeños, these delicious vegetarian patties can be served with your typical burger fixings to create a delectable twist on a classic school lunch.

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Tacos

Another flavorful black bean recipe is our Black Bean and Sweet Potato Taco recipe. This recipe is great for school food professionals who are looking to save time by cooking with canned black beans. Infused with ancho chili powder and cumin, the hearty black bean and sweet potato taco filling is not only delicious, but also an excellent source of fiber and protein. These colorful tacos can be served with an array of delectable plant forward toppings, such as a delicious cabbage and lime juice slaw. To further their environmental impact, school food professionals can reach out to local vendors and procure fresh produce and tortillas for these tasty tacos!

Chickpea, Rice and Spinach Pilaf

Our Chickpea, Rice, and Spinach Pilaf was developed as part of our Indigenous Recipes Project with the Rocky Mountain Tribal Leaders Council and presents an elevated twist on one of the most commonly enjoyed food combos: rice and beans. This meal combines chickpeas, brown rice, yellow onions, and spinach with cumin, coriander, salt, and pepper to create an aromatic lunchtime meal. The star of the show, chickpeas, are a great substitute for meat protein as they have a high protein content of 23%.

Edamame Carrot Salad

Our vibrant Edamame Carrot Salad is a refreshing dish for students to enjoy, especially during the warmer months. In addition to being packed with flavor, this salad is full of protein and other key nutrients. Did you know that one cup of edamame beans provides nearly 10% of an adult’s daily calcium and vitamin C intake? The same amount of edamame also provides nearly one-third of our daily protein intake (Beans is How).


Fueling the Future

At the Chef Ann Foundation, we believe sustainable, whole-ingredient scratch cooking is at the core of supporting the health of our future generations and planet. Plant-forward ingredients, like beans, are an important part of school meals as they are rich in nutrients, fiber, and protein to support growing students. These ingredients also support the health of our planet as they often use fewer resources, such as water and energy, to produce than animal proteins.

We’re excited to support Beans is How and encourage more school food programs to incorporate delicious bean recipes into their menu cycles and explore how beans can be used in delicious, culturally-relevant meals that positively impact students and the environment.


See who’s putting #beansonthemenu