“We are required to adhere to the nutrition requirements in the USDA Meal Pattern. Although our model is very different from most schools, the Department of Education has been very supportive and interested in what we are doing. They may even eventually use ANCS as a model for other schools.”

Chef David Bradley

A Word from Chef Bradley

“In 2014, I was working as the chef of Lure Restaurant in Midtown. It was engaging work, but in the back of my mind, I’d been having doubts about the long-term feasibility of being a chef and being a dad at the same time. When I heard through the grapevine that a charter school, which happened to be right across the street from my house, was looking for a chef, my initial thought was, “Thanks, but no thanks.” But I thought it was worth at least talking to the administrators about it, and every conversation we had was really interesting.

I was particularly excited about the opportunity to start from scratch and develop my own recipes and systems. Everything about it would be built from the ground up. I also liked the vision that Matt Underwood, Executive Director, and Kari Lovell, Director of Business and Operations had for the program. They were committed to supporting local foods and had big dreams for a school garden. So in 2014, I joined the staff of the Atlanta Neighborhood Charter School as its Chef and Nutrition Director.”

Excerpt from “Hungry Like the Wolves”

ANCS is proud to serve healthy, delicious meals using locally-sourced food to our students, teachers, and visitors.

As well, students have the opportunity to be involved in our meal program, from tending to the farm at our middle school campus to planning recipes to working in the kitchen at each campus.  You can read more about the philosophy and approach of our meal program from Chef David Bradley in the forward to our ANCS cookbook below, and, if you’d like to try your hand at making dishes served at ANCS, you can order an ANCS cookbook to do so.

Purchase a copy of the cookbook

Food for Thought

An Interview with Kari Lovell, former Director of Finance & Operations and David Ferry, School Farmer

Why did you start the farm to table nutrition program?

Kari: For many years ANCS wasn’t eligible, as a charter school, for the APS district food service program. I was disappointed in the food provided by the catering company the school used. It seemed, increasingly, to be frozen food that was reheated and the salad bar was offered inconsistently. Participation was low. I have a background in restaurants. I knew I could do a better job by hiring a chef and building a program at ANCS. Ashley Miller asked David Bradley to interview with me, and it was clear he had the vision and passion to build a successful program. He’s teaching the students to love fresh, healthy food. I’m really proud of the work he and his staff do, and it’s clear that everyone in the kitchen cares deeply about the students.

David: A goal for the nutrition program and school farm is to reintroduce kids to where food comes from. Basic cooking skills are a lost art. We want to change that. In the last 40 years, Americans are less and less connected to gardens and farms. Our grandparents had victory gardens during the war. Gardening was a common hobby. Seeds are not expensive and small gardens can be economical for families, if they put in the effort to care for the garden. Kari: I think the farm at the middle campus and the garden beds at the elementary campus increase student interest and engagement. Participation in school lunch has more than doubled. Healthy school food is prepared from scratch every day and we didn’t raise meal prices for students.

What do you hope for school nutrition programs locally, statewide, and nationally?

David: The school farm is rebuilding the connection between food offered in the cafeteria and plants that come out of the soil. I would like to see some form of garden education in every school. Last year, Hugh Acheson, the keynote speaker at Georgia Organics’ conference, talked in his address about kids learning basic cooking skills, like making an omelet or salad dressing. It’s good to know there are students at ANCS learning to cook in middle school, and maybe that program can expand.

Kari: The next step for ANCS is advocacy. If we can teach other schools to make healthy, delicious food that meets federal meal standards, that is a bigger accomplishment. Sadly some schools are built without kitchens. Also, I would like to see state and local districts funding garden education teachers. ANCS Farm is funded, in most part, by our generous PTCA. Dave is a parent volunteer, as was Farmer Chris Reynolds before him. I do garden club on my own time. Our families often get volunteered to help (thank you!). It’s really a labor of love. But I’d be happy to have a garden teacher!

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