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What can you do to make your lunchroom healthier?

Earlier this month, we had the opportunity to speak with Angie Gaszak, RD Nutrition Specialist with the St. Paul Public Schools (SPPS). We wrote about their success with adding new and nutritious items to their menu. We also asked Angie if she had any advice for other schools looking to improve nutritional value of their meals and meet new nutritional and dietary guidelines. She provided great insight that we feel other schools can benefit from.

SPPS is a larger school district. They have 39,000 students. They have the equipment and resources to make 30,000 muffins in a single day! As we toured their facility, it was clear that efficiency was a large part of their strategy. We can see from their 78% participation rates, they are truly an example to follow.

We thought folks might appreciate some of their wisdom.

What advice do you have for other schools/district that may be struggling with the new school lunch guidelines?

  • Choice bar- This is an additional option complete with a variety of fruits and vegetables that can be added to any meal. It helps meet all of the vegetable categories on a weekly basis. There are also grants available to help get salad bars in schools!
  • Try to develop a cycle menu. Once you have several weeks that work, it is much easier to rotate in variety by replacing entrees with similar ones in terms of calories and nutrition profile.
  • See if you can integrate some scratch cooking (even one item!) or work with a local bakery to get whole grain products that are low in sodium. Develop a game plan to gradually decrease the sodium.
  • Go local! Create a big marketing campaign on local fruits and vegetables, bring in the farmers, make signs and show students how things are grown. Let the veggies sell themselves!
  • Make sure your staff members are cheerleaders for the new regulations; integrate customer service skills in training. It goes a long way.
  • Check with vendors in the area on items you are looking for (with specs) so that they know that there is a need. This can also create some healthy competition if they know you are also looking elsewhere.
  • Network! Use recipes that are hits from neighboring districts—don’t reinvent the wheel

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