Nutrition specialists in the South Washington County School District have set out to make fresher fruits and vegetables and greater ethnic diversity a bigger part of their school menu lineups. And they want it all delivered more quickly.

The changes are the result of a yearlong study commissioned by the district's nutrition services department. More than 2,300 students and about 400 parents were surveyed and nutrition experts from six school districts were interviewed as part of a review that can be found on the school district's website.

The district said in a news release that the nutrition services department tried out some new ideas this spring, including developing and testing new recipes and offering a greater variety of fruits and vegetables.

In the future, service lines are to be added and "grab and go" menu options provided at the elementary level to give students more time to eat lunch. New ethnic food lines also will be made available in the high schools, the district said.

South Washington County contracted with Wilder Research to collect information from other districts. Wilder wrote in its report that St. Paul worked alongside community members to develop recipes, and if those recipes didn't work to scale, the district made changes.

St. Paul also had a "three strikes" policy requiring menu items to be dropped if they were offered three times and failed to get a favorable response.

According to the report, one district suggested setting up two garbage cans and having kids put their trash in one of two cans "depending on whether they liked the food. This can be a simple way to gauge student feedback," Wilder said.

The nutrition services department has created a Facebook page to drum up interest in its offerings. The most recent photos from October include one showing a Woodbury High student with a tray of "fresh, local green beans, steamed with a hint of garlic."


Early childhood event scheduled at Teddy Bear Park

Families with children who are 5-years-old and younger are invited to a "July Jubilee" on Thursday, July 11, at Teddy Bear Park near downtown Stillwater.

The event, hosted by Stillwater Area Public Schools' early childhood family education program, will run from 9:30 a.m. to noon and includes arts and crafts, park exploration and a 10 a.m. performance by The Bazillions, a district news release said.

Information will be available about early childhood programs and classes. No registration is required, the district said.

Teddy Bear Park is on the corner of Nelson and S. 2nd streets.

Anthony Lonetree