I Am a Hudson Valley Parent: Isidoro Fattore

Re-thinking our school lunches

“The kids who weren’t getting proper food didn’t perform as well in the classroom.”    

Isidoro Fattore, founder and CEO of Cognitive Cuisine, serves a healthy lunch to his two daughters, Tikli, 11, and Annie, 4, at their home in Hopewell Junction.

As parents, we try our best to ensure our children are eating nutritious lunches at school. Isidoro Fattore, a father of two from Hopewell Junction, has made it his life mission and career path.

“There’s no reason children ever need to eat processed food in school,” he says.

Nationwide, 31 million children receive meals in school. In our readership region, more than 23,000 children — about 1/3 of school-aged kids— receive school lunches, according to the New York State Council on Children and Families. 

While new school lunch nutritional requirements were put in place in 2012 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, few schools have the budget or ability to deliver food that meets the new standards.

That’s where Fattore’s company, Cognitive Cuisine, an innovative new Hudson Valley food service company, comes in. 

All of Cognitive Cuisine’s food is made daily from scratch, even the crispy chicken tenders.

“As a teacher, I saw lethargic, unsatisfied kids coming back to my classroom unable to concentrate and still hungry,” says Fattore, who taught middle school English in Highland before launching his company. “I’d talk to them about what they ate and I found that they were eating bags of chips, ice cream and other snacks from the vending machine because they hated the so-called ‘hockey-puck’ burgers and ‘cardboard’ grilled cheeses on offer in the cafeteria.”

Fattore, who grew up in the restaurant business and ran a deli with his brother on Long Island before going into teaching full-time, saw an opportunity to use his background in education and food to fill a hole in the market.

“I’ve watched my own daughters (Tikli, 11, and Annie, 4) flourish in every way with the right nutrition, and I soon saw that the kids who weren’t getting proper food didn’t perform as well in the classroom,” he says. 

He knew he could do better, creating healthy, better-tasting, 100% made-from-scratch hot food for lunch — food that kids would actually enjoy without breaking the notoriously tight school food budgets.

“Many schools believe it is not possible to cook healthy meals from scratch for school cafeterias without losing money, but we’ve proven that it can be done,” Fattore says. 

Izzy Fattore, right, and chef Robert Morano, a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, prepare food in Cognitive Cuisine's kitchen — an old elementary school cafeteria.

Cognitive Cuisine was launched in 2013 out of the shuttered Hyde Park Elementary School cafeteria. Every meal is created daily to order by culinary chef Robert Morano and delivered to participating schools and daycares in the Hudson Valley. 

“Parents can go to our website and see all of our meal options with nutritional and allergy guidelines,” Fattore explains. “They can sign up for one meal on a crazy busy day, or order daily meals for their kids.” 

Fattore operates on a shoestring budget with one chef, a prep cook, one delivery driver and a freelance nutritionist. He is able to keep costs competitive, while still maintaining the quality he says he feels Hudson Valley children deserve.

“We can meet schools’ budget constraints because we don’t have the overhead they would have with a full-time kitchen staff, equipment and pricey packaged foods. We also deliver fresh food daily. A lot of school cafeterias are just serving processed food that’s re-heated.” 

Cognitive Cuisine recently did a trial lunch run at San Miguel Academy of Newburgh, a middle school with 65 students. Fattore says the feedback has been great, and that he personally served many of the children the chicken stirfry and veggie macaroni and cheese the company prepared. 

To find out if your school is participating in the program (schools need to grant permission for deliveries, a simple process that parents can generally accomplish online, according to Mr. Fattore), visit cognitivecuisine.com

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