The Lunch Line

department of education

The Lunch Line

May 2018


School Nutrition Employee Week and School Lunch Heroes

Between preparing healthy meals for America’s students, adhering to strict nutrition standards, navigating student food allergies, and offering service with a smile, school nutrition professionals are true heroes.

School Nutrition Employee Week is usually the first full week of May. However, we encourage you to celebrate and recognize food and nutrition staff all month long! Showcase the difference school nutrition professionals make for every child who comes through the cafeteria. Designating a “School Lunch Hero Day” provides the perfect opportunity to recognize the hardworking professionals in your school cafeterias.

We’d like to recognize the following “School Lunch Heroes” who were nominated by our Minnesota Department of Education review monitors during the 2018-19 school year. Congratulations on a job well done!

School Lunch Hero Day

Clearbrook Gonvick ISD:
Robin Proffit

Lancaster ISD:

Mendy Coffield

Heather Anderson

Darcie Keenan

Rothsay ISD:

Carol Nehk

Cindy Blair

Diane Haugrud

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USDA Updates

The following updates were issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS).


2018-19 Paid Lunch Equity

For school year 2018-19, only School Food Authorities (SFAs) with a negative balance in the nonprofit school food service account as of January 31, 2018, are required to establish prices for paid lunches according to the Paid Lunch Equity (PLE) provision. All other SFAs are eligible for an exemption from this requirement. This is a one-year exemption. It does not eliminate the need for sound budgeting practices when determining paid lunch prices. To access the USDA's PLE calculations for school year 2018-19, go to MDE’s Meal Pricing and Non-Program Foods webpage.


Correction to 2018-19 Renewal of Food Service Management Contract

The 2018-19 “meal equivalency factor” is $3.52 instead of $3.64, as was stated on the 2018-19 Renewal of Food Service Management Contract. The document has been corrected and is posted on the MDE website. The meal equivalency factor is used to convert á la carte revenues into the number of lunches to be paid under a food service management contract. 


Administrative Review List for 2018-19 Available

The list of schools receiving a School Nutrition Program review in school year 2018-19 is now available. Specific reviewer assignments will be completed this summer and SFAs will be contacted in August with additional details. Although schools are generally on a three-year review cycle, adjustments are made each year for staffing purposes. SFAs may receive a review outside of the three-year period. 

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What's the Latest?

HealthierUS School Challenge

Effective July 1, 2018, the USDA Food and Nutrition Service will no longer be accepting applications for the HealthierUS School Challenge Award Program. Applications submitted to the MDE by June 30, 2018, will be reviewed for approval. Visit USDA’s HUSSC webpage for more information. Please contact us with questions related to the application process.


Community Eligibility Provision – Applications Due June 30, 2018

The Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) allows eligible districts and schools in low-income areas to provide school lunch and breakfast at no charge to all students using simplified meal counting and claiming methods. A school or group of schools must have an identified student population (ISP) of at least 40 percent on April 1, 2018, in order to be eligible for CEP during school year 2018-19. A list of potentially eligible sites, application instructions, and a variety of CEP resources is available on the Community Eligibility Provision webpage. As a reminder, CEP applications must be submitted no later than June 30, 2018. For more information on this important program, contact Nicole Podhora by email or phone at 651-582-8490.


Unpaid Meal Debt Survey

Thank you to all who participated in the Unpaid Meal Charges survey in March. About 75 percent of public districts and charter schools responded! While the data is still being analyzed, it is apparent that student meal debt is a growing concern. Two-thirds of public school districts and one-third of charter schools saw their student meal debt increase by at least 20 percent from 2015 to 2017. The final report will be released the end of May.  

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Professional Development

School Nutrition Program Training

Details and registration information for all training opportunities is available on the School Nutrition Training webpage.


Tuesday @ 2:00 – School Year Wrap-Up

May 22, 2018

Join Deb Lukkonen, supervisor for School Nutrition Programs, for a wrap–up of the 2017-18 school year and forecast of the year to come.

Culinary Training – Knife Skills, Reducing Sodium, Culinary Techniques

Free culinary training is available through Minnesota’s USDA Team Nutrition Training Grant. The culinary training will focus on the following topics: basic culinary techniques, knife skills, tips for increasing vegetable subgroups, flavoring foods with less sodium, and tips for using local produce. The upcoming series will occur at The Good Acre in Falcon Heights, Minnesota. Learn more on the SNP Training page Fresh Flavorful and Fun Culinary Training.

Mixed Veggies

Southwestern Minnesota Training Opportunity

School Lunch Recipe Exchange
May 22, 2018, 2:30-5 p.m.
Southwest West Central Service Cooperative

Join Erika Hixon, MDE Child Nutrition specialist in Marshall, Minnesota for a school lunch recipe exchange. Erika will review the basics of standardized recipes and provide an opportunity for attendees to share recipes. Registration is limited.


School Lunch Scramble 2018 – June 19-20

This year’s School Lunch Scramble will be held in four locations around the state: Thief River Falls, Fergus Falls, Marshall and Roseville. Day one will focus on Financial Management for School Nutrition Programs with a full-day session presented by trainers from the Institute for Child Nutrition. Consider attending this session with your school business manager. The topic for day two will be School Breakfast Round Up, presented by our own Team Nutrition staff, in coordination with University of Minnesota Extension trainers.

School Nutrition Back-to-School Essentials 2018 – August 14-15

This year’s training will be held in five locations: Thief River Falls, Fergus Falls, Sartell, Marshall and Shoreview. This two-day training will focus on essential content for school nutrition program operations. The Free and Reduced-Price Process will be covered on August 14, and Meal Service Basics will be the topic for August 15.  If you would like to connect via webinar to the August workshops for your local school training, contact Donna Becker.

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New Resources

New Food Buying Guide Available in Different Forms

The USDA has released the new digital Food Buying Guide (FBG) in two versions: web-based and mobile (for iPhones or Android). These new versions are interactive, with features that make it easier to search for specific products, compare yields and create a favorite foods list. The web-based version is available on USDA’s website. The mobile version can be downloaded from the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store. If you prefer to have a paper copy, the Food Buying Guide can be downloaded as a PDF on the website. We recommend accessing and using one of these new forms of the FBG because the crediting and yield information for several foods has been updated.

School Breakfast Program

MDE is excited to announce new school breakfast resources available online. Check out Breakfast Encourages Students to Thrive (BEST) for parent handouts, student resources, offer versus serve reminder cards, social media ideas and more!

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Nutrition in the News

Bringing New Veggies to Osseo School District

The Hennepin County Statewide Health Improvement Partnership (SHIP) teamed up with East African Services recently to incorporate more diverse recipes within the Osseo School District and build their capacity of culinary skills. The students had the opportunity to taste test new recipes while the culinary staff at Osseo learned new culinary skills from around the world. The district is proud of their Smarter Lunchroom accomplishments to increase vegetable consumption and diversity in their school foods. Learn more and see them in action in this Spicing Up Veggies video!

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In Memory...Sharon Anderson

Words alone can’t express the loss of one of our valued colleagues. Sharon Anderson passed away suddenly on April 17, 2018. In her 46 years of service at MDE, Sharon shared with us her deep program knowledge. She was engaged and thoughtful as she helped so many sponsors of school, child care and summer nutrition programs. Sharon will be deeply missed by many and forever remembered.

Sharon Anderson

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Blast from the Past

1981 USDA Foods Available List

Did you know the number of USDA Foods on the Foods Available List for schools has nearly quadrupled since 1981? That list (picture above) featured 54 commodities. The current list, now multicolored and multiple pages, contains more than 200 fruits, vegetables (including red/orange and dark green), meats, legumes, and grains. Visit our website to check out the current list of USDA offered commodities.

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The Lunch Line comes in two formats; this digital version and PDF. To view the PDF, visit our School Nutrition Newsletter page.

School Nutrition Programs: Helping to ensure academic success!

Message from Deb

It’s almost summer! As we greet the warmer months we are already in the thick of planning fall menus, back-to-school workshops and hopefully annual vacations to rejuvenate our souls. Next year, our office will be focusing attention on procurement. Some things you may want to think about over the summer are ethics and procurement processes. Ask your district administration if there is an overall ethics and/or procurement policy available. Take some time to review it and craft some additional steps that might pertain to food service operations. We are already working on training and new resources in the procurement area. 

Each year, regulations seem to ask more and more of us. Thank you for your hard work and your dedicated service. Have a fun and safe summer!

Deb Lukkonen
School Nutrition Programs Supervisor


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