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.

More from Holly Wagner
  • JamieinMN

    “When you are serving 400 kids how ya gonna make em’ all like it?” You don’t. They eat or they don’t eat. I didn’t like meatloaf growing up, but I ate it, or I didn’t eat. My mother was not a short order cook. She cooked, you ate, or you didn’t eat.
    Don’t worry about what the kids will like or won’t like.

  • sporty007

    Parents have the option to make there children’s lunch if the kids won’t eat or don’t want to eat what’s on the schools menu. I like the idea of exposing kids to different vegetables they may or may not get at home – some will try it and some won’t – I’m just concerned about the amount of waste this may create and how much money will be wasted.

  • Jen

    I think it’s great! I send my kids a healthy lunch and then they sit there and watch the other kids eat crap. Then I get to hear about how much they want hot lunch. Maybe if hot lunch was just as healthy as my kids’ lunch, then I wouldn’t have to hear about it so much :o)
    Plus there are so many kids that are overweight. There’s nothing anyone can do if parents are feeding them junk all the time. At least this is one way to get something healthy into them.

  • Sassy

    Les what’s pathetic at this point is the fact that they have multiple choices of nothing but crap to eat. I agree with Jamie and Sporty either they eat it or they can bring their own lunch. If the parents want them to eat junk food all the time they can supply it to them.

  • LeslieS

    Love it! I have been making my childs iunch on and off for years. The school lunches are so large and not very healthy. My child would love to be able to take hot lunch more and I would love to be able to let him with our the worry of it being so unhealthy. Love the idea of whole foods and no sodium.

  • MAJ

    So my tax dollars are going to go to pay for reduced lunches that are going to be thrown in the trash can. If these kids had money they could bring bag lunches. I personally would not eat black bean salad, spinach or roasted beets.
    I’m sure my grandkids would not eat the above either.

    • JamieinMN

      I would. Sounds delicious! You may realize this once you grow up.

      • Jim

        It’s amazing to me that an adult would post something like MAJ wrote. Pathetic. Lots of people are happy being obese and unhealthy I guess.

        • Jack Action Hero

          I agree with MAJ.

          I wouldn’t eat spinach or roasted beets. Black bean salad? I’ve never even heard of this stuff. Who eats this crap? No kids will. I can guarantee that.

          Half of you can’t even get your little fat brats to drink NON-CHOCOLATE milk, but you think they’re going to go nuts on the green leafy vegetables, eh?


          Hey Jim, I’m not obese or unhealthy. How do you explain that?

  • Sandi Tudisco

    I agree!!!! Waste of food and money.

  • Joe Josephson

    Well said. I’m all for healthier food in schools, but this is insane, and they’ll play dumb when the lunches cost $1 more next year.

  • Jessica

    Does a tray of vegetables fill you up? No! There should be a protein, starch, vegetable, and fruit. This is all because of Michelle Obama. Kids are going to be throwing this food in the trash. What a waste of money.

    • Jack Action Hero

      “This is all because of Michelle Obama.”


      No it isn’t. Michelle Obama did not force MN to do this.

      • MAJ

        Sorry, but I am neither obese or unhealthy. As a long time vegetable grower and marketer I can tell you not many people like beets. The ones that do really like them. They are kind of like eggplant. You either love it or can’t eat it.

  • Ick

    This sounds kinda gross because I can picture big industrial size vats of black beans and spinach slopped on some plastic tray. I hope if they’re doing this, the stuff does come from vats because if it’s all farm-fresh restaurant quality produce it’s a big waste of tax dollars. Don’t have kids if you can’t afford to feed them a healthy lunch on your own.

  • Joe Josephson

    Apparently WCCO decided to delete the comment I initially responded to, hmm, strange since I agreed with the comment and don’t remember anything offensive about it. Oh well, in summary, this idea is horrible! “Healthy” does not have to mean “crazy vegan dishes”.

  • Janette K.

    I am always amazed when a group of adults who are interested in school lunches (you are since you read this article) are posting ignorant comments in regard to it. The point of the article was not to popularize beets or that every child will automatically love spinach-it is that the school systems are recognizing that there are issues with the healthfulness of the lunches and are trying to improve. It specifically says increasing the amounts of fruits, vegetable and whole grains, which I’m fairly certain doesn’t automatically mean vegan. If you all are so opinionated, perhaps you should direct your energy toward making better suggestions and support the positive changes the school systems are trying to make.

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