By Jason DeRusha

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — School lunch is not the normal topic of excited conversation during a high school lunch hour.

“It started this year and it’s really good,” Hopkins High School junior Linda Nyakundi said.

She was talking, specifically, about the global food options that Hopkins has been introducing at the high school to an average of 775 students every single day.

“We are making 95% of our food from scratch; it is not coming out of a box,” Sandra Rulec, menu-planner and ingredient-orderer for Hopkins High School, said.

Seven different stations, from global to pasta to deli to pizza.

“Students video the options and text it to their friends, they’re excited,” Rulec said.

The district buys a lot of food directly from farmers. Their main local provider is Riverben Farm in Delano, but they also get tomatoes from the Hmong American Farmers Association, blueberries from Highland Valley in Bayfield, turkey from Ferndale in Cannon Falls, and they partner with a non-profit food hub The Good Acre.

Many of Hopkins schools have their own gardens, too. The overarching goal is to feed the body and the mind.

“They teach us about what we should be eating. So it reflects well when foods they’re serving here go along with what we eat,” Nyakundi said.

As the makeup of the student body in Hopkins Schools has changed, so has the lunch ingredient list

“We have 50 different languages.We are working to expand our global offerings by our new menu items,” nutrition services manager Tonya Christenson said.

“It’s important to reflect their cultures,” Rulec added.

On the day WCCO visited, the high school served an Asian chicken rice bowl, with veggies seared on the flat top and home-made teriyaki sauce.

“They’re lined up out the door. The kids love it,” said Rulec.

They’ve done Somali beef and chicken, Chicken Tikka, and Korean beef bulgogi.

“I think we have a more global student population and we’re trying to incorporate more global food,” Christenson said.

The deli roast beef isn’t from a package, it’s eye of round, sliced in the school cafeteria. Pizzas aren’t frozen either, the kitchen hand-makes sauce and rolls out dough for 300 pizzas a day. You can’t miss the care that goes into every step here.

A high school lunch that’s honoring student cultures and inspiring healthy choice.

“This is really good quality food that they’re getting,” Rulec said.

Jason DeRusha

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