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Perhaps you were thinking that in this crazy world we live in things never change for the better? Well, if you are a student or a parent in the Minneapolis Public School (MPS) district, you have something to look forward to.

Thirty-five years ago, the Minneapolis Schools set up a large, central commissary to provide food to schools throughout the district. It was designed as a “pre-pack” operation where purchased, pre-processed foods were packaged and shipped to schools for re-heating and serving to students. The “pre-pack” approach meant that the district didn’t cook its own meals and nearly all the food came to kids wrapped individually in plastic.

That’s about to change.  Just a few months ago, MPS began to dream about a food revolution of its own.  MPS’ new Director of Nutrition and Culinary Services, Bertrand Weber, and his staff have set bold new goals to improve the quality of food being served and to support local farmers and the local economy through an expanded Farm to School program. That means big improvements ahead for the 3.7 million lunches and 2.1 million breakfasts served annually by MPS.

Initial changes are already afoot. For instance, MPS held its first-ever “Farmer Fair” earlier this week. The event brought together local growers, allied businesses, MPS Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson, Mayor R.T. Rybak and other stakeholders. Over 20 locally grown foods are being integrated into menus that will be served at all MPS schools starting this fall. That means more fresh fruits and vegetables, along with high quality, sustainably raised beef and turkey from Thousand Hills Cattle Company and Ferndale Market.

This fall, MPS also plans to introduce salad bars at all high schools in the district and at two elementaries (Folwell and Jordan Park). As part of MPS’ shift toward more scratch cooking, all of the food at those locations will either be prepared on-site or prepared fresh at the district’s Culinary Center. These are all steps in the right direction and they will lay the groundwork for deeper changes in the years ahead. They also provide a national model for how big city school districts can step up to the plate to more fully and creatively meet their students’ nutritional needs.

So if you care about healthy and local food in the Minneapolis schools, you have good things to look forward to. Please join IATP in helping MPS be successful in these efforts, and let MPS School Board members and staff know that these changes are vital to helping our kids be healthy and ready to learn.