The Lunch Line - Winter 2019

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Winter 2019

In this edition:

News You Need to Know!

Flexibilities for Milk, Whole Grains and Sodium

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently issued a final rule regarding meal planning flexibilities for School Nutrition Programs related to whole grain-rich grains, flavored low-fat milk and sodium targets. These flexibilities go into effect on July 1, 2019. Read the Federal Register document. The final rule allows states to establish more strict standards than those outlined here. The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) is currently studying the new legislation and will be seeking input from operators before establishing Minnesota specific rules. The permanent flexibilities are:

  1. At least 50 percent of grain products served in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Programs (SBP) must meet whole grain-rich (WGR) requirements and the remaining grain products must be enriched. School food authorities (SFAs) must continue to provide 100 percent of grain products that meet WGR requirements for the remainder of SY 2018-19 unless they have received a WGR exemption for certain non-whole grain-rich items.
  2. SFAs can offer low-fat (1 percent) flavored milk. This will apply to all students participating in the NSLP/SBP (grades K-12 and co-mingled preschool students), and children age six years or older participating in the Special Milk Program and Child and Adult Care Food Programs. This provision does not apply to preschoolers who are served the preschool meal pattern.
  3. Sodium Target 1 level has been extended through June 30, 2024. Starting July 1, 2024, SFAs will be expected to offer menus that are in compliance with Sodium Target 2. The Final Sodium Target has been eliminated. This applies to both NSLP and SBP.


Real food, real farms, real flavor. For every child.

National Farm to School Month

Minneapolis public schools celebrated National Farm to School Month in October with two “Legislators to Lunch” events. U.S. Senator Tina Smith and other legislators met with food service director Bertrand Weber, nutrition staff and students at Lyndale Elementary and Washburn High.


Unpaid Meal Debt Resources Available

The USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service has released the following new unpaid meal charges resources for school food authorities (SFAs) that are now available on the USDA Unpaid Meal Charges website.

Unpaid Meals Fact Sheets: Three fact sheets providing an overview of unpaid meal charges and strategies SFAs can use to prevent “school lunch shaming.”

Local Charge Policy Training Template: An adaptable presentation SFAs can use to develop a training for school and district staff members responsible for enforcing the local charge policy.  

Unpaid Meal Charges Talking Points: Sample talking points school officials can use as a starting point to address questions about unpaid meal charges.

Excess Balance Donation Letter: An adaptable letter and donation form that SFAs can use to encourage families to donate any balances remaining in their account at the end of the school year.


Serving School Meals to Preschoolers Worksheet

"Serving School Meals to Preschoolers” Worksheet

The USDA’s Team Nutrition recently released a “Serving School Meals to Preschoolers” training worksheet. Program operators can use this colorful four-page worksheet to plan and prepare menus that meet preschool meal patterns in the School Breakfast Program and National School Lunch Program. This resource also includes information regarding co-mingling of preschool students and students from older grade groups, as well as scenario-based questions to test for knowledge and understanding. The worksheet is available on the Team Nutrition website.  


Food Service Safety Inspections Required

Schools participating in the NSLP and SBP must obtain two food safety inspections per year and post the most recent inspection report in a visible location. Program operators are responsible for requesting the food safety inspections from the public health department and documenting their efforts.  SFAs can request an inspection using this Request for Inspection Form. SFAs that are not able to obtain the required inspections through no fault of their own must follow proper food safety practices and have a HACCP-based food safety plan to protect the safety of school meals.

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News You Can Use

Romaine Lettuce—Safe to Eat

The Center for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration reported that romaine lettuce entering the market will now be labeled with a harvest location and a harvest date or labeled as being hydroponically- or greenhouse-grown.

It is safe to eat romaine lettuce from the growing regions near Yuma, California, the California desert growing region near Imperial County and Riverside County, the state of Florida, and Mexico. If the lettuce does not have this harvest location information, you should not eat or use it.

In Minnesota, romaine lettuce is a primary source of meeting the dark-green vegetable subgroup. Iceberg lettuce cannot be substituted as an alternate for romaine in meeting the dark-green vegetable requirements; schools would be out of compliance if they do so.


Bon Voyage Ben and Joe!

Two long-time Food and Nutrition Services staff, Ben Durand and Joe Lee, retired in December. They will be greatly missed for all the support and guidance they provided in interpreting policies and complying with regulations. With 70 years of combined service, they have answered thousands of phone calls and provided invaluable resources to both program staff and sponsors.


National School Lunch Week – March 4-8

Mark your calendar for National School Breakfast Week—March 4-8, 2019! The theme is “Start Your Engines With School Breakfast,” which is designed to show parents, students and school officials the benefits of fueling up for the day with a healthy school breakfast. Check out the School Nutrition Association website for planning tools.


Schoolyard Garden Conference

The Schoolyard Garden Conference will take place on Friday, March 1, 2019, at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. If you are interested in presenting at this conference, please submit a proposal

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Crediting Corner

Dried meat snacks

Dried meat snacks are now creditable as meat/meat alternates in Child Nutrition Programs meal patterns. This includes shelf-stable, dried and semi-dried meat, poultry and seafood snacks. Sponsors should request a product formulation statement from the manufacturer to assess crediting of ounce equivalents. Read USDA memo.


Popcorn, hominy, surimi seafood

USDA has also authorized coconut, hominy, popcorn, surimi seafood and tempeh to be creditable. However, currently there is no guidance on how these products will credit, so they cannot be used until the USDA releases more information.


Vegetable “noodles”

New guidance will be soon released on using vegetables disguised as other food components, such as noodles made from vegetables. MDE will communicate the new guidance when available.


2019 Show Us Your Tray Photo Contest

The USDA Foods’ Show Us Your Tray photo contest is back and we want to see how you use USDA Foods in your school meals. Inspire other school nutrition professionals and submit a picture of your most creative dish. Pictured is the 2017 winner, Baja Cantina Nachos from Prince William County School District, VA.  See the 2019 Show Us Your Tray Submission Details.

Hurry, as the contest submission is due January 16!


Baja Nachos

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Professional Development Opportunities

Tuesdays @ 2 – Procurement Training

MDE School Nutrition hosts a weekly discussion-style webinar on various topics relating to school nutrition. Join us every Tuesday at 2 p.m. to learn about relevant topics, get your questions answered, and stay up to date! View the Tuesday @ 2 schedule and get registration instructions. In January, we will be offering a series of procurement trainings. Details and registration information for Tuesdays @ 2 and all MDE training opportunities are available on the Tuesdays @ 2 School Nutrition Webinar Schedule 2018-19 webpage.

Here’s what’s coming up in the next few weeks:

  • Procurement Foundations: Standards of Conduct and Procurement Procedures - January 8           
  • Procurement Foundations: Methods of Procurement - January 15
  • Procurement Foundations: Developing a Procurement Schedule - January 22      
  • Mid-year Update – Dialogue with Deb Lukkonen - January 29
  • Managing Special Diets - February 5        
  • Co-Ops, Group Purchasing Organizations, Purchasing Agents, Oh My! - February 12           


Food Safety “Flashes”

USDA has produced “A Flash of Food Safety” educational video series designed to help busy school nutrition professionals understand and practically apply safe food practices. The videos, available in English and Spanish, address five food safety topics: Handwashing: Why to Wash Your Hands; Handwashing: How to Wash Your Hands; Calibrating a Thermometer: Ice Water Method; Calibrating a Thermometer: Boiling Water Method; and Active Cooling with a Chill Stick.  Each “flash” video is 2-4 minutes long–perfect for onsite training! Employees can earn 15 minutes (1/4 hour) of continuing education for Professional Standards when they watch all five videos in the series. View videos.


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New Resources

School Breakfast: Be Your BEST Resources

Have you checked out the new school breakfast resources on the MDE Be Your BEST webpage? If not, you will want to browse through the 20+ resources for tips and tricks related to operating, marketing and expanding your school breakfast program. Popular resources include the Offer vs. Serve Reminder Card as well as parent handouts. Our newest resource, Expert Tips for a Successful School Breakfast Program is a compilation of suggestions from food service directors in Minnesota! Additionally, three new recorded modules related to school breakfast are now available on the Training Essential for School Nutrition webpage.


MDH Food Code Fact Sheets

The Minnesota Department of Health has prepared fact sheets that highlight specific food code topics. Use these fact sheets as reference materials or for training employees. Topics include handwashing, single-use gloves, employee hygiene, sanitizing and potentially hazardous foods. View fact sheets.


Updated Team Nutrition Website

Team Nutrition invites you to visit the new Team Nutrition Schools Network website! The Team Nutrition Schools Network is for schools that are interested in creating and sustaining healthy nutrition environments. Members of the network enjoy access to free nutrition education resources and promotional items, networking opportunities, and more. In January, Team Nutrition Schools will have the opportunity to request new nutrition message decals to display in their cafeterias. Sign up as a Team Nutrition school today!


Breckenridge ISD - Chefs to School

Breckenridge ISD – Chefs to School

Students enrolled in the North Dakota State College of Science's culinary arts program recently worked alongside school nutrition professionals at Breckenridge High School through the Chefs Move to Schools program. The students learned to prepare a meal that met federal nutrition standards. The focus of these trainings is to increase opportunities for kids to taste more varieties of fruits, vegetables and whole grains in the school menus. These sessions also inspire school nutrition professionals to increase scratch cooking skills as well as provide flavor without the salt.

Steph Beyer (Breckenridge FSD), Karensa Tischer, Chef Kyle, Breckenridge ISD foodservice staff and college students.

Lunch tray with new menu items


  • Roasted Squash with Variety Peppers
  • Marinated Cucumber and Tomato Salad
  • Breckenridge School Orchard Apples
    • Salad Bar
    • Pizza Choices
    • Milk Choices
  • Locally grown items
Breckenridge ISD - More Chefs to School Pictures

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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

Bring on the New Year

The kids are having fun during this snowy time of the year. I wish that we had a chance to play in the snow during recess, but we can do our part to ensure that students are well nourished and prepared to succeed in school. I hope you take some time to nourish yourself professionally, emotionally and physically. Remember that you are the most important part of our business! Here’s to a great year!

Deb Lukkonen, Supervisor of School Nutrition Programs