Resources for Schools
In 2010, Great Trays, now the name for all MDH's school nutrition efforts, began as a two-year project to help schools provide nutritious meals by sharing information, tools and resources that are based on the USDA’s proposed rule for National School Lunch Program nutrition standards. The results were remarkable. For example:
- Anoka-Hennepin Public Schools led a group of 15 districts in 2007 to form the Minnesota School Food Buying Group, saving thousands of dollars on commonly purchased foods.
- Chisago Lakes Areas Schools moved to a cycle menu planning system, allowing them to better manage their inventory and food costs.
- Dover-Eyota Public Schools purchased 15 local foods for this year’s menu. Apple and pear trees will soon produce fruit in the school’s courtyard, offering a boost to student health and hands-on learning opportunities for students enrolled in agriculture classes.
- Hopkins Public Schools have trained student leaders, parents and community volunteers to serve as food coaches, encouraging kids to eat more fruits and vegetables during lunch periods.
- Owatonna Public Schools offered a two-day training for school cooks to prepare nutritious recipes that appeal to kids, including chicken tortilla bake and spring salad with baby spinach, strawberries, mandarin oranges and lemon poppy seed dressing.
- Rochester Public Schools make student input a priority by requiring that every school hold at least three student meetings per year to ask for advice on menu items.
- Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan Public Schools earned Silver Award recognition in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Healthier U.S. School Challenge through a comprehensive wellness approach involving school nutrition and physical activity improvements.
- Saint Paul Public Schools uses a thorough review process to test new menu ideas, incorporating several steps to determine if the new item is budget-friendly, kid-tested and reflective of the district’s diverse student population.
- Sartell-St. Stephen Public Schools enlisted student help to create new menu items that used kid-friendly foods like pizza and quesadillas as a platform to introduce fresh, healthy ingredients.
- Wayzata Public Schools offers hydration stations in its cafeterias. The stations consist of large water dispensers flavored with fresh cut fruit and vegetables. Students fill their water bottles to quench their thirst with naturally-flavored water.
- Willmar Public Schools makes trying new foods fun and simple, and allows staff to easily judge the future success of a new menu item. Elementary students dispose of small sample cups in garbage cans labeled with a smiley face (“I like it”) or a frown face (“I don’t like it”).
- Winona Public Schools successfully moved their recess before lunch this year to serve kids after they’ve had an opportunity to burn off steam and calories. The change has been a hit with students, teachers, administrators and cooks.
Great Trays Report from year one (PDF)
Eight organizations support Great Trays, including the Minnesota Department of Health: