The Lunch Line - Winter 2019

Winter, 2019

The Lunch Line Banner

In this edition:

Seasons Greetings

News You Need to Know - Program Administration


Equipment Grant - Due January 24

The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) is accepting applications for the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) Equipment Grant. This grant provides funding for School Food Authorities (SFAs) to purchase new equipment to assist in serving healthier meals which meet the updated NSLP meal pattern requirements. Other key details about the grant:

  • Applicants may apply for only one piece of equipment costing between $3,000 and $25,000.
  • Priority will be given to SFAs with 50 percent or more enrolled students who are eligible for free and reduced-price meals as of October 1, 2019 .
  • The grant period will be April 1, 2020 to September 30, 2020.
  • An informational webinar will be offered January 7, 2020.

The full grant opportunity instructions, application and webinar registration are available at MDE’s Grant Opportunity Site

For technical questions or issues with the application process, please contact Tim Larson (651-582-8451). For questions about this specific grant, please contact Kala Constant by January 15, 2020, 4 p.m., CST.


And Justice for All Posters

We recently received the updated “And Justice For All” posters from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Over the next several weeks, these will be sent out to sponsors that previously placed an order. Our staff will also bring posters with them to distribute when they conduct site visits. Contact our office at 651-582-8526 or 800-366-8922 (toll free MN only) for information about distribution. You may also email us at:

You may notice that the nondiscrimination statement on the new “And Justice for All” poster does not match the statement indicated on the MDE website. The poster contains an abbreviated version of USDA’S nondiscrimination statement. The requirement to use the full nondiscrimination statement on all program documents, pamphlets, websites, etc., has not changed. Under special circumstances, the shortened version (This institution is an equal opportunity provider.) may be used. 


Local Wellness Policy—Triennial Assessment Reminder

School Food Authorities (SFAs) are required to complete their first Local Wellness Policy triennial assessments by June 30, 2020. The triennial assessment is monitored through the administrative review. The following resources can assist you with components of the triennial assessment.


Direst Certification via MARSS Error Warnings

Public school nutrition programs must work closely with the district/school Minnesota Automated Reporting Student System (MARSS) Coordinator to ensure that students identified via specific MARSS reporting error warnings receive free meal benefits as quickly as possible. There are three specific error warnings related to direct certification:

#364 – Student may be free eligible via Direct Certification:

  • If “DHS Applicant Name” is displayed, this means the student's household qualifies for SNAP or MFIP and free meal benefits must be extended to all students in the household.
  • If “DNS Foster Program” is displayed, only the individual student is identified as a foster child, and thus must receive free meal benefits. Meal benefits must not be extended to other household students based on the MARSS error warning.

#431 – Student eligible for free meals (Migrant Identification). Only the student is eligible for free meal benefits. Meal benefits must not be extended to the household based on the MARSS error warning.

#388 – Student eligible for free meals (Homeless Identification). Only the student is eligible for free meal benefits. Meal benefits must not be extended to the household based on the MARSS error warning.

Nutrition programs must keep a copy of the error warning report as documentation for free meal benefits. Once the error is corrected in MARSS, the error warning is eliminated.

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News You Need to Know - USDA Memos

Snow day bus


Meal Service During Unanticipated School Closures - Snow and Other Emergencies

USDA recently released a memo that provides updated guidance on the Child Nutrition Program flexibilities available during unanticipated school closures, such as extreme weather events, natural disasters (earthquake) or other emergency issues. 

For more information, please contact our office or review the Meal Service During Unanticipated School Closures Memo (SP 04-2020, CACFP 03-2020, SFSP 03-2020). 


Serving Pre-K Meal Patterns Update

Do you serve preschool students? If so, you are required to serve their meals according to the preschool meal pattern if they are served separately from older students (i.e., K-5 students). Here are some ways the preschool meal pattern differs from the K-5 meal pattern:

  • Preschool students are not allowed to be served flavored milk.
  • Grain-based desserts are not creditable for preschool students.
  • The daily portion requirement for meat/meat alternate for preschool students at lunch is 1.5-ounce equivalents.

For more details, refer to Preschool Breakfast and Lunch Meal Patterns – Effective October 2017.

If preschool students are co-mingled with older students (i.e., they are served in the same place and at the same time), their meals may follow either the preschool meal pattern or the K-5 meal pattern. Refer to Meal Patterns for Preschoolers: Which One Should I Use? (CACFP and SNP) for more information about separate versus co-mingled preschool meal services.


Smoothies Offered in Child Nutrition Programs

The USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) recently released an updated memo that provides guidance on how smoothies, including commercially prepared smoothies, credit toward meal pattern requirements. For more information, see the Smoothies Offered in Child Nutrition Programs Memo (SP 40-2019, CACFP 17-2019, SFSP 17-2019).



Salad Bar Guidance Child Nutrition Programs

The USDA FNS recently released a memo that provides information on how to effectively improve the service of reimbursable meals using salad bars. For more details, refer to the Salad Bars in the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program Memo (SP 41-2019). 


USDA Foods Refried Beans and Vegetarian Beans Reformulation

Based on sponsor's feedback, USDA recently worked to improve the flavor profile of the USDA Foods vegetarian beans and refried beans. As part of the process, USDA defined the required ingredients to ensure a more consistent flavor profile across vendors and to better align with commercial products. USDA evaluated vendor samples in the test kitchen to ensure the products were acceptable and yielded a similar result.

The refried beans now include oil, tomato, garlic, and jalapeno, but the product still has a mild flavor profile. The vegetarian beans now have a more uniform tomato flavor, color, and sauce thickness. The new formulations of both the vegetarian beans and refried beans are starting to be delivered and you may notice that the vendor label looks a little different to reflect the changes. However, please be assured that these products are still the same versatile USDA Foods you are used to receiving, with a slight makeover.

If you are interested in reading more about the changes to the product requirements, please look at the canned beans specification on the Agricultural Marketing Service website. If you have feedback about these items or other products, please email us at


Color is Flavor

Offer vs. Serve Posters

Offer versus Serve (OVS) National School Lunch Program Posters and Lunch/Breakfast OVS Tip Sheets are available to order from USDA Team Nutrition or to download from the USDA Website. The OVS posters may be used as signage to instruct students to select a reimbursable meal under OVS. The OVS tip sheets are intended for use by school foodservice staff to enhance their understanding of OVS requirements at breakfast and lunch.

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Professional Development and Training Opportunities


Upcoming Tuesdays @ 2 Webinars

Listed below are the upcoming Tuesdays @ 2 webinar trainings for SNP sponsors:

  • Procuring a Distributor for Regular and Net Off Invoice (NOI) USDA Foods (January 7, 2020, at 2 p.m.)
  • Have you done your Wellness Policy Triennial Assessment? (January 14, 2020, at 2 p.m.)
  • Silver Linings from the Administrative Review (January 21, 2020, at 2 p.m.)

Learn more and register: Tuesdays @ 2 webinars.


Procuring a Food Service Management Contract “Tuesday @ 2” - Rescheduled to January 30

The “Procuring a Food Service Management Contract” webinar scheduled for December 17, 2019, has been rescheduled to Thursday January 30, 2020, at 2 p.m. so that we can introduce updated Request for Proposal (RFP) templates for both fixed-price and cost- reimbursable contracts. During the webinar, we will discuss the pros and cons of these two contract options as well as the process for contracting with a food service management company (FSMC) to manage part or all of the school nutrition program.  MDE requires specific documents and a step-by-step process for these procurements. This session will go through the template RFP and the procurement process for obtaining a FSMC. Register for this session Procuring a Food Service Management Contract.


Procurement Basics Webinar Series – Starts January 9

A Procurement Basics webinar series will be offered every-other Thursday at 2 p.m. starting in January. The first session will be held on January 9, 2020, and subsequent webinars with be held through April. Each webinar will be approximately 90 minutes in length.

  • The Purchasing Environment for CN Programs (January 9)
  • Competition Matters When Using Federal Dollars (January 23)          
  • Purchasing Fundamentals (February 6)          
  • Elements of a Solicitation and Specifications (February 20)
  • USDA Foods Procurement Considerations (March 5)
  • Micro and Small Purchase Methods (March 19)
  • Sealed Bid, Competitive and Noncompetitive Proposals (April 2)
  • Awarding Purchases and Contracts (April 16)
  • Managing Contracts in Child Nutrition Programs (April 30)

The series will cover procurement requirements for federal grant programs focusing on school nutrition program operations. The target audience for this webinar series is school nutrition program directors/managers, school business officers and purchasing officers. Learn more about session descriptions and register: Procurement Basics Webinar Series.


SNDM Commodity Expo – February 14

Please join the School Nutrition Directors of Minnesota (SNDM) at the annual Minnesota USDA Commodity Foods Expo at the St. Cloud River Center on February 14, 2020. This expo will feature products from manufacturers using USDA Foods and how their company plans to participate in the Minnesota Food Distribution Program. The expo is open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and is free to school food service professionals.

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School Breakfast Out of this World


Blast Off for NSBW – March 2-6

National School Breakfast Week (NSBW) will be recognized March 2-6, 2020. The theme is “School Breakfast: Out of This World!” Schools across the country celebrate with special menu items, events and student activities. NSBW is the perfect time to bring attention to your breakfast program and set a goal to increase participation. Check out the SNA website for some early planning tools. Learn More

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Plan a theme day or week and include fun menu items.
  • Invite guests to join the fun (parents, community members, government officials, etc.).
  • Include a message on morning announcements about School Breakfast Week.
  • Post a photo and message on social media about School Breakfast Week.
  • Plan a taste-testing opportunity with students.
  • Check out MDE Breakfast (Be Your BEST) resources and School Nutrition Association resources.


Farm to School Can Make You Cool!

Although the Farm to School celebration in October is over, Farm to School is a year-round event! Here are some ways Minnesota’s school nutrition Farm to School Programs are making school and community "cooler" throughout the year! View USDA blog.


Little Falls ISD

Getting the Best Food with Great Partners

Little Falls Independent School District (ISD) food service director, Gail Johnson, along with school nutrition staff and students, collaborated to celebrate Farm to School month with an amazing menu. Students harvested squash, cabbage, potatoes, and zucchini from the school garden. Apples came from a local orchard. Students pressed gallons of fresh apple juice at all schools. Students were amazed when they learned that the juice consisted of apples and only apples!


Watermelon Radish

Marketing Fresh Vegetables

Marketing and promotion are key to the success of your school nutrition programs. Promotion can be as simple as slicing up a new menu item and showcasing it while students come through the serving line just as Roseville ISD elementary school staff did earlier this school year!

To generate excitement among students, Roseville school nutrition staff cut a watermelon radish open to showcase in the serving line, so students knew what they would be crunching. Roseville also promotes their school nutrition programs using social media outlets – something your school can do too! Check out their Facebook page! Radishes fall in the “Other” veggie subgroup.


Garden to Cafeteria from Butterfield-Oden ISD

Garden to Cafeteria in Butterfield-Oden ISD

Last year, the fifth-grade class at Butterfield-Oden ISD planted and cared for a tower garden, harvesting leafy greens and tomatoes. The produce was incorporated into cafeteria offerings, prompting students to try new vegetables. Food services director, Zona Adams, observed students challenging each other to try arugula, and some learned they liked it! The tower garden, purchased through funding from the Statewide Health Improvement Partnership (SHIP) was moved into a community location for the summer. The tower returned to a classroom for another bountiful school year.

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USDA Food Photo Contest

USDA Foods in School

Serving Up USDA Foods Photo Contest

The USDA recently announced the fourth annual photo contest! USDA wants to see how school food service professionals are “Serving Up USDA Foods” in school meals! The contest began November 1, 2019, and ends January 15, 2020 at 10:59 p.m.

Inspire other child nutrition professionals and submit a picture of your most creative meal utilizing direct-delivered USDA Foods. It could be a breakfast or a lunch meal. With over 200 USDA Foods items available, there are many ways to highlight innovation. Your submissions will provide child nutrition professionals with healthy, creative, student-approved meal ideas utilizing USDA Foods.

No prize money – just bragging rights! Access the 2020 Serving Up USDA Foods Photo Contest Submission Details.

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School Nutrition Programs: Helping to ensure academic success!