St. Paul Public School Lunches Set a Healthy Standard

by Angie Anew on February 10, 2012

Before my son started public school in St. Paul, I expected to pack his lunch every day. School lunches in my day included delights like mystery meat, sugar-laden French toast sticks and canned peas. Blech. But I’ve been surprised and impressed by St. Paul Public School lunches. At a parent event at my son’s school today, here’s what I ate:

Healthy School LunchPin It

Fresh baked chicken legs, diced red potatoes, fresh carrots and cucumbers, and a spinach salad with tomatoes and diced eggs. (My hubby drank my chocolate milk.)

Kids also can take bread and jelly to complement their lunches or select a sandwich instead of the main dish.

Of course, some parents are still frustrated that the district serves chocolate milk. But I say if that’s the worst of our problems. . . we could have worse problems.

Scrap food goes into a “pig bucket” for a local farm. Today, they used Styrofoam trays due to the high volume of people at the school. Reusable trays are the norm.

I was quite impressed.

If your child goes to a St. Paul Public School, don’t waste your time packing a lunch. For $1.85, school lunches are a good deal. I hope more districts will follow St. Paul’s example!

For more information about St. Paul Public School Lunches (including the Farm to School program), visit the district’s Nutrition Services page.

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Will February 11, 2012 at 8:35 AM

do they serve kids the veggies and fruits or leave it up to the kids? I’ve eaten with my son a few times. In Richfield the kids serve veggies and fruits. Most don’t get any and the ones that do end up throwing it out. If they did serve it up I think most of it would get thrown out. It all starts at home and if they don’t eat it at home they won’t at school. Of the 26 kids in my sons K class I would guess five of those actually eat or get veggies in their lunch everyday. It’s quite disturbing to see what most of the kids are getting in their packed lunches.


Angie Anew February 11, 2012 at 10:47 AM

You make a good point. They can offer veggies, but will kids actually eat them? When I visited, kids were served the main dish (chicken legs or a sandwich) and a starch (potatoes or bread). Then they could choose from a wide variety of fresh vegetables and one fruit (orange slices) on a salad bar cart. There was also a cart with condiments and salad dressings.

I actually saw a lot of kids eating salads and even more munching on carrot sticks and orange slices. I think there is value in offering fresh fruits and veggies even if many kids don’t take them – as long as you have a good solution for dealing with potential waste. It teaches kids that these items are a normal part of a meal.

I think a bigger problem re: waste is the fact that kids don’t get enough time to eat. Based on what I saw, many kids throw out food not because it didn’t appeal to them, but because they ran out of time.


Jill Driscoll February 12, 2012 at 9:25 PM

I think St. Paul does a great job… and I’ve witnessed the transformation over the past 6 years. When my oldest was in kindergarten, it was a lot of nuggets, fries, corn dogs, pizza, etc. Slowly, the fries were phased out. The corn dogs became turkey dogs. The pizza is whole wheat crust. And, yes, this has probably made some kids turn away from hot lunch. But, I’ve also seen my kids discover foods at school that we’re not making at home — my daughter came home one day and said she “loved brown rice!” Yes, I am packing cold lunch more often because the kids don’t like the healthier lunch (the whole wheat pizza is a crowd dud). But, I still appreciate our district has made these changes because I believe if kids are hungry enough, they’ll eat it (hence, your other post about the damn snacks!). Have you looked at Minneapolis’ lunches?! I hear they’re disgraceful — everything (including a banana?!) wrapped in plastic and served on a styrofoam tray!


Angie Anew February 12, 2012 at 10:39 PM

I’ve heard a few people now say that Minneapolis lunches aren’t nearly as good. Plastic-wrapped bananas?!

We told our kiddo this year that he was having school lunch. Period. They always offer something he will eat (bread, a sandwich, something) so I don’t feel the need to mess around with schedules and packed lunches.

We’ve discovered that he tries all kinds of things at school that he’d never normally eat at home (including the chicken legs pictured in this post).


Angie Anew February 22, 2012 at 5:56 PM

Hey Jill, another local blogger posted this week about Minneapolis Public School lunches. Not bad!


Kate February 22, 2012 at 8:58 AM

I am impressed with more food businesses that scrap their excess food waste in to pig buckets for farmers. Lunds/Byerly’s deli departments do this too; our deli has four of them and they get filled to the brim, picked up twice a week. When I worked for Bix Produce many years back, the waste from their vegetable and fruit processing room was pushed in to a conveyor belt in the floor and sent to a dumpster outside that was picked up by a farmers cooperative for their pigs.

I’m also very impressed with the school lunch, and grateful to see that it’s changing for the better.


Angie Anew February 22, 2012 at 5:51 PM

That’s great to hear that food companies are leading the way in that regard! Otherwise, the waste could be truly overwhelming. At my kiddo’s school, the everyone knows to scrape their trays into the “pig bucket.” Avoiding waste seems to be a big deal.


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