Real Food for Kids’ mission is to change eating behaviors and improve health outcomes for children and families in the Greater Washington Region through sustainable access to real whole foods, impactful nutrition education, and local systemic policy changes.


Since 2010, Real Food for Kids has advocated for and won positive changes to school food policies and generated institutionalized support for our goal of healthy school food as a critical component of children’s wellness and academic success.

The secret to our success is our positive advocacy approach, uniting diverse stakeholders to identify and overcome barriers to change. In addition, we align our goals with those of school divisions: namely, to increase participation in school meal programs by students from all income levels. We excel at building grassroots support for our initiatives and leveraging this support to win support from key decisionmakers, including school administrators, school board members, and other policymakers. Finally, we conceive of and design innovative community events and educational programs to raise awareness and increase decisionmakers’ support for our cause in a field crowded with other high-priority concerns.

Real Food for Kids was founded by a group of Fairfax County, VA parents who came together out of concern about the disconnect between cafeteria offerings and the alarming trends in childhood obesity. We evolved into a nonprofit organization with a legacy of punching above its weight as the leading voice for nutrition equity in the National Capital Region. Our advocacy and educational programs garner praise from local and national school leaders, parents, and policymakers.

Real Food for Kids


Our first Food Day event at Wolf Trap Elementary School put us on the map, educating students about healthy eating habits and increasing local policymakers’ awareness about the critical role of healthy school food in improving children’s health and academic success.


Real Food for Kids persuaded Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) to remove over 91% of artificial ingredients in school food.


We worked with FCPS to take advantage of renovations at Marshall High School to create Statesman Station, a food court-style line that served healthy options. It remains the most popular lunch line at Marshall and serves as the model now used in all FCPS high school renovations.


In recognition of our advocacy efforts, Real Food for Kids Executive Director JoAnne Hammermaster spoke at a White House event organized by First Lady Michelle Obama on a proposal to limit junk food marketing in schools.



Real Food for Kids’ advocacy resulted in the removal of regular soda from school vending machines in FCPS (exceeding federal regulations at the time). All soda (diet and regular) was removed in 2017.


Real Food for Kids consulted with FCPS to recruit and hire Rodney Taylor, a widely recognized leader in transforming school food, as its new director of Food and Nutrition Services. This achievement effectively institutionalized our vision inside FCPS administration, driving change from within.


Rodney Taylor worked with Real Food for Kids to introduce “Real Food for Kids Salad Bars” in FCPS. These salad bars, named in honor of our years of advocacy to increase consumption of fruits and vegetables in schools, will be installed in all 141 FCPS elementary schools by 2021 (99 salad bars have been installed as of 2/26/20).


Real Food for Kids’ Chef Academies trained 220 school cafeteria staff from Fairfax and Loudoun County school districts on healthy cooking techniques.


Real Food for Kids formed the Lunch Room Collective (LRC), a regional collaborative dedicated to elevating school nutrition programs as a catalyst for change in public health.


Real Food for Kids expanded our footprint beyond Fairfax, initiating parent-led advocacy efforts in Alexandria City, Loudoun, Arlington, Prince William, and Montgomery counties.

2018 – 2020

With funding from the Northern Virginia Health Foundation, we partnered with researchers from Virginia Commonwealth University and George Mason University to study factors that influence students’ experiences and eating habits in school cafeterias. We designed and led a training to educate lunch room monitors on creating a positive environment.


Real Food for Kids developed and administered culinary trainings for 132 Food and Nutrition Services directors across Virginia as part of the 3-year Team Nutrition Training Grant administered by the Virginia Department of Education.


In its seventh year, the Real Food for Kids Culinary Challenge expanded beyond its Fairfax roots to include nearly 100 students from 5 school districts to create innovative, USDA-compliant, and healthy school meals. School food service directors from across the DC region featured the winning lunch entrée in their cafeterias.




Real Food for Kids collaborated with the Arlington Healthy Communities Action Team to launch Fresh Food Explorers, an eight-week program to increase low-income preschoolers’ exposure to and consumption of fresh vegetables.


Real Food for Kids and Chef David Guas of Arlington’s Bayou Bakery, Coffee & Eatery joined forces to form Chefs Feeding Families, an initiative to provide healthy meals to children and their families during the COVID-19 pandemic.