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Minnesota Schools Lead with Smarter Lunchrooms

Media contact: Heidi Kessler, Executive Director, Smarter Lunchrooms National Office, Cornell University, 607-255-7822,

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. (1/24/2017) — Rainbow Dragon Salad and Curried Chicken Bowl with Pickled Pineapple are on the menu at Minneapolis Public Schools this month. These fun menu descriptions are one example of simple, effective, strategies designed to help improve student health that are popping up in lunchrooms all over Minnesota thanks to the Smarter Lunchrooms Movement.

Smarter Lunchrooms Movement use research-based techniques to set up the lunchroom in a way that makes the healthiest options so appealing, so attractive, and so convenient, that they are nearly impossible to pass up. The result is well-fueled students that are ready to grow, play, and learn. The Smarter Lunchrooms Movement, founded in 2009 at Cornell University has received funding from the USDA since 2010.

“Nudging healthy food in the lunchroom is an essential step in helping students develop lifelong healthy eating habits,” says Heidi Kessler, the Executive Director of the National Smarter Lunchrooms Movement, “The strategies we offer are simple, free and effective. Lunchrooms across the country have been using them with outstanding results. A Smarter Lunchroom can results in a 25% increase in the number of vegetables kids eat. That’s 25% more healthy food in kids’ bellies and 25% less in the trash cans.”

In January 2017, 30 schools in the Minneapolis, Saint Paul area will begin focused efforts made possible by the Target Corporation’s grant program and the leadership of the new Minnesota Smarter Lunchrooms Collaborative. In Fall 2016, the University of Minnesota Extension, the Minnesota Department of Education, the Minnesota Department of Health, and the Smarter Lunchrooms National Office joined together to form the Minnesota Smarter Lunchrooms Collaborative. The goal of the collaborative is to strategically leverage statewide capacity and funding to help schools adopt strategies that make it easier for kids to choose and eat more fruits and vegetables.

“Funding and support from Target and the Smarter Lunchrooms National Office is making it possible for us to work closely with schools to make changes and measure results. The schools are happy to have a fresh set of eyes evaluate the cafeteria and offer suggestions for adjustments,” says Kelly Kunkel of the University of Minnesota Extension.

“Minneapolis Public Schools runs the largest restaurant franchise in the Twin Cities. Our students are our customers and the Minnesota Smarter Lunchrooms Collaborative supports our efforts in getting the freshest, healthiest foods into kids. Keep your eyes on us — we’re leading the nation,” says Bertrand Weber, Director of Culinary and Nutrition Services.

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