The Experience of Food: An Interview with Mr. Bertrand Weber, Director of Nutrition for Minneapolis Public Schools
This month BALL’s “Tales from the Garden” features a unique success at our local Schools: How is FOOD becoming a wholesome experience for our students? In August, “America’s schools make positive changes to create healthier school meals,” publicized by CDC, stating:
“School meals are healthier now than ever before. We’ve made real progress, but there is much more to do to help American children make food choices that will keep them healthy throughout their lives,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H.
• Almost all schools offered whole grains each day for breakfast (97.2 percent) and lunch (94.4 percent).
• Most schools offered two or more vegetables (79.4 percent, up from 61.7 percent in 2000) and two or more fruits (78.0 percent, up from 68.1 percent in 2000) each day for lunch.
• Most schools offered two or more vegetables.
• Nearly one-third (30.5 percent) of schools offered self-serve salad bars.
• More than half of schools that prepared their meals at the school used fresh or frozen vegetables instead of canned (54.1 percent), used low-sodium canned vegetables instead of regular canned vegetables (51.8 percent, up from 10.3 percent in 2000), used other seasonings instead of salt (65.1 percent up from 32.8 percent in 2000), and reduced the amount of sodium called for in recipes or used low-sodium recipes (68.0 percent up from 34.1 percent in 2000)
Like CDC, Minneapolis Public Schools believes there is more to be done, and they are doing it! 10,000 pounds of farm to school produce have already been served in our school meals this year. Farmers have planted 14 crops specifically just for MPS, one of which planted 29,000 pounds of carrots. MPS serves about 35,000 students each day.
“Food is an experience,” says Bertrand Weber, Director of Nutrition for Minneapolis Public Schools, Bertrand explained his philosophy about food: clean, good, wholesome, and tasteful food. “The approach is to enjoy good food, and actually celebrating it – Food in its purest form.” He doesn’t believe just focusing on “healthy” food, instead focusing on providing good and wholesome food, and allowing the experiences to balance out each other, for example, eating a chocolate cookie in its richness, and balancing with choices from the salad bar. “Eating food isn’t just about eating healthy or just focusing on eating to be healthy. It’s about the experience of food.” Bertrand believes in re-building the family and food experience together. “We saw the effects at the high school when we first started making the shift. The students are now sitting down to eat. When it was all pre-packaged they would throw it around, walk around and eat, etc. Now they fill up their plates with salad, and the other foods and sit down to eat and actually enjoy their food/meal.”