Minnesota districts move to healthy, locally sourced meals
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota schools are replacing pizza and chicken tenders at lunch with fresher, locally grown foods as education leaders and nutritionists rethink the school meal system that feeds tens of thousands of children daily.
More than half of the state’s school districts now have some kind of a farm-to-school program, Minnesota Public Radio News reported. It’s becoming more common for schools to prep food on-site and have local chefs give input on the meals that serve as a key source of nutrition for students, including the 40 percent eligible for free and reduced-price lunch.
A movement to revamp school lunches started in 2010 when Congress passed the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, which was part of then-first lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” initiative. It raised nutritional standards for what schools were permitted to serve students and helped communities establish local farm-to-school networks.
Now, farm-to-school advocates are recognizing Minneapolis as a national leader for its school food reform efforts.
Before 2012, Minneapolis schools reheated mass-produced, pre-packaged food. Now, more than half of its schools have on-site kitchens equipped to make meals from scratch, and the rest get food from the district’s central kitchen.
Kate Seybold, the Minneapolis district’s farm-to-school coordinator, said sourcing locally saves money and allows schools to bring learning into the lunchroom.
Her department posts educational resources online for teachers to use to discuss the menus with students.
The district is also asking local chefs to weigh in on meals.
For example, a turkey lentil tostada served at Bancroft Elementary School came from Lucas Rosenbrook, the chef at award-winning Minneapolis restaurant Alma. The school also made a chicken curry bowl inspired by the Twin Cities rotisserie Brasa.
“I talk to my students a lot about the food,” said Emily Torres, a fourth-grade teacher at Bancroft. “The kids (are) able to see fresh food and that food doesn’t necessarily come in a package. It’s healthy and it’s good. We were talking today — this, compared to what we grew up with, is totally different.”
Information from: Minnesota Public Radio News, http://www.mprnews.org