From the Office of Nutrition Services: Making Nutritious Meals Accessible for All Students

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Colleagues:

Good nutrition makes a profound impact on a child -- an impact that lasts for life. Nutrition affects a child’s ability to learn, communicate and socialize. Numerous studies have proven that student participation in programs like school breakfast and lunch is linked to better attendance and higher test scores.

At Saint Paul Public Schools, we are proud to meet our students’ nutrition needs with programs that are fair, sustainable and racially equitable. Our goal is to use our resources to continue to improve the accessibility of nutritious meals to all students.

That accessibility continues to grow. Indeed, Nutrition Services prepares and serves an average of:

  • 22,000 breakfasts and 31,000 lunches each school day
  • 97,000 suppers and 382,000 snacks per year “after the bell”
  • 360,000 meals at more than 70 different locations during the summer.

We love made-from-scratch cooking! SPPS Nutrition Services offers whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and calcium-rich milk each day through a culturally diverse menu.

Achieving menu diversity while meeting the federal government’s requirements isn’t always easy. For example, the federal mandate to provide whole grains means we serve brown rice -- rice that includes the grain’s hull and bran. In the food traditions of some Asian families, the brown hull and bran aren’t considered people food. Therefore this year SPPS sought, and received, a waiver from the USDA to serve traditional rice dishes at breakfast.

SPPS is always seeking ways to provide good nutrition to students. The Community Eligibility Provision is a new lunch program that provides lunch at no cost to all students in 39 of our schools. All kids at these sites can count on two meals a day, which helps them learn and relieves stress for their parents too. At 16 sites, SPPS also provides suppers: children receive a cold evening meal on non-school days at seven locations, and as part of after-school programming at nine additional sites.

Minnesota Thursday is a special monthly menu day that allows us to feed -- and educate our students about -- fresh, locally raised foods. (See one of our Minnesota Thursday recipes, created by Jessica Kullander from Adams Spanish Immersion Elementary School, here.) We know that students with a full belly are better able to concentrate on learning. When they learn what healthy, balanced eating is, that’s a lesson they can take with them throughout life.

Stacy Koppen
Director of Nutrition Services at Saint Paul Public Schools