Photo by Juliet Farmer
“It’s a public service and a responsibility of the community that kids are being well-nourished.”
- Joe Hatch-Surisook from Sen Yai Sen Lek
Joe Hatch-Surisook packs home-cooked lunches for his elementary-aged children so they can avoid what he calls “fast-food” meals at their Minneapolis Public School cafeteria.
Hatch-Surisook, a co-owner and chef at northeast Minneapolis restaurant Sen Yai Sen Lek, said the school’s processed and sugary food is sometimes from menus similar to those of chain restaurants, and it doesn’t provide his children with necessary nutrients.
“Having kids … [I] think about what nutrition and proper food does to kids and their focus,” Hatch-Surisook said. “[We need] to give them energy and the right type of nutrition, instead of having processed things and sugared items — [which] is a detriment to their education because they wind up getting unfocused, and they crash.”
To address Hatch-Surisook’s and other community members’ concerns, Minneapolis Public Schools’ director of culinary and nutrition services Bertrand Weber formed partnerships with local restaurateurs and chefs to strategize ways to improve the schools’ meals. Now, they’re working to generate support for their plans to stabilize the district’s lunch programs.
This community-wide push for lunchroom reform has gained momentum in recent months, in part because of the work of University of Minnesota students. The college students are aiding MPS with its transition to healthier menus by offering staff and students information on how to improve the existing system.
“Before a certain age, kids are more impressionable and have a more curious palate,” computer science senior Deena Phadnis said, “making it the perfect time to instill healthy food choices in their diet.”
From Minnesota Daily Projects