Survey Prompts Major Updates to Nutrition Program

Wazyata Public Schools (MN) nutrition professionals spent the summer of 2018 overhauling the nutrition program in the district’s Culinary Express. They created new school menus, with delicious scratch-made recipes, including homemade chicken noodle and chicken wild rice soup, vegetable lo mein, spicy black beaned burgers, baked ziti and pork carnitas burrito bowls. 

While revamping the Culinary Express website, school nutrition staff worked with a local food hub and marketing company to help provide more opportunities for nutrition education, including new graphics, cafeteria posters, food mascots, etc. The innovative changes to their school nutrition program were prompted by survey feedback from parents and staff.

Wayzata Culinary Express used educational flyers to help students better navigate the cafeteria, created cooking videos with school cooks, established a “Try It Tuesday” series for students to sample various fruits and vegetables, and introduced local farmers to their student body.  Emphasizing the use of locally grown and sourced foods has proven to encourage students to try new foods. Try It Tuesday has featured purple kohlrabi, zucchini, squash, cherry tomatoes, parsnips, chioggia beets and Brussels sprouts.

Check_Out_Line
This check out line how-to helps those students new to buying school lunch navigate the serving lines with less confusion.

Without meal price changes, school nutrition professionals worked together to incorporate new foods and recipes, reducing artificial colors, high fructose corn syrup, artificial preservatives and bleached flour. They are serving more whole grains and less sugar and reducing the frequency of how often chocolate milk and juice are offered.

The Wayzata Culinary Express’ new web page breaks down meal plan policy information for elementary, middle and high school students. Detailed information regarding menu items is provided, complete with an entire ingredient list, potential allergy warnings and nutrition facts.

Through social media, WPS has reached parents and staff, including a “Diners, Drive Ins & Dives” style show where different school cooks feature a delicious looking lunch menu option. They have recently featured the district’s famous scratch-made chicken noodle soup with whole grain noodles and their whole wheat lo mein with scratch-made sauce and fresh vegetables.

According to Culinary Express Supervisor Mary Anderson, the department renovated its website as part of a complete overhaul of the Wayzata School District’s website. Parents can find their children’s school menu, look up nutritional and ingredient information, as well as manage their school meal plan account. Establishing a working relationship with the district’s school nurses, additional breakfast and lunch options were offered, while also increasing options for those with food allergies or dietary restrictions. 

“We have a pretty active parent group and we incorporated a lot of their concerns or suggestions into the menu,” Anderson said. “The survey drove changes in the program and everyone worked incredibly hard to overhaul everything, from the menu, the information provided, the website and many other aspects of the cafeteria.”

WPS has partnered with The Good Acre, a non-profit in St. Paul (MN) that collaborates with farmers, kitchen professionals, chefs, etc. The Good Acre’s healthy and locally sourced recipes are featured on the district menus and can be found on their website. The recipes allow parents to try them out with instructions and ingredient lists sized for a meal for 4-5 people. The Good Acre also provides informational “Meet Your Farmer” fliers that feature local farmers who participate in the food sharing program and information on where food is coming from to promote eating local and sustainable foods.

 

A follow up survey will be going out the week of December 5 to help get feedback after the first semester of menu and school nutrition changes. Anderson explained that they will reconvene on how well the changes have resonated with students, staff and parents, where the district is meeting or exceeding expectations and where there is room for improvement.

 

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