Real Meals: School Lunches Getting Healthier Next Fall

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Black bean salad, Hawaiian chicken wrap with spinach, roasted beets and vegetables, sounds like a restaurant menu doesn’t it?

It’s actually some of the things that will be on the lunch menu for Minnesota school kids next fall.

Its part of a new program called Great Trays. School chefs are learning how to incorporate more fresh fruits and veggies and whole grains into the foods they prepare.

Making creative, colorful, and yet convenient meals.

“Anything we can do at this point to try and get ahead of the overweight and obesity issues for our country — for not only kids, but adults — and establish those healthy eating habits for kids when they’re young,” said Kate Franken with the Minnesota Department of Health. “I think it’s really critical.”

Franken said one of the big challenges with school meals is high sodium content.

Part of what these health and nutrition experts are teaching is how to how to prepare ‘quick scratch meals’.

Meals that start from whole foods and don’t take much time to make.

“The nice thing about this is there’s no sodium at all,” said one chef.

Whether the students eat it is another thing.

“When you are serving 400 kids how ya gonna make em’ all like it?” asked one chef.

It may be a challenge, but chefs like Pam Haupt from Northfield are looking for healthier options that will help students change their palates and their habits.

“It really forces us to offer a variety of vegetables. I think kids love corn. They always talk about corn it forces them to try different vegetables,” said Haupt.

The USDA will soon be implementing new nutrition standards for school meals.

Health experts said with the changes Minnesota schools have made and continue to make, the state will be ahead of the game when these new rules are in place.

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