Minneapolis schools are getting a financial boost in the effort to get healthier lunches to student stomachs.

Life Time Foundation Tuesday announced that it’s giving $550,000 to the school district in order to upgrade food service equipment that will help the district serve healthier meals.

The upgraded equipment will help the district to substitute healthier recipes for foods currently purchased in bulk from manufacturers.  It is trying to reduce in its menus the use of such ingredients as bleached flour; artificial preservatives, colors and sweeteners; high-fructose corn syrup; trans fats and hydrogenated oils; and antibiotics and hormones in beef and other animal products.

Nutrition Services Director Bertrand Weber said the district’s goal is to reduce the use of processed foods. For example, he said, one piece of equipment will allow the district to produce customized salad dressings in bulk or in individual servings. Those recipes will have less sugar, corn syrup and preservatives than commercially made dressings, he said.

About one-third of the district’s schools now have fresh salad bars, in one change Weber has brought during his 2-1/2 years in his post. Marcy Open and Jefferson schools are the latest to get salad bars, with outside grants and fundraising helping pay for school-level renovations and equipment.  The district also has been emphasizing the preparation of fresh fruits and vegetables at schools, where kitchens permit that, and Weber hopes to complete the renovation of kitchens throughout the district over the next five to 10 years.

According to a joint release, the district and foundation will cooperate on developing a sustainable menu and budgets that can be replicated at other districts and their schools.

Bahram Akradi, Life Time’s chairman, president and CEO, said, “Processed and artificial ingredients are highly problematic and have been overused during the last 20 to 30 years.  Children deserve healthy meals and we shouldn’t settle for anything less.”

Chanhassen-based Life Time operates 110 fitness centers in 22 states.