One year into COVID-19, Fridley Public Schools is seeing high participation and parents are more informed than ever about the nutrition their students receive.
Sara Supplee is the nutrition coordinator at Fridley Public Schools in the Twin Cities metro area. Her team serves around 3,000 students in the district between two elementary schools, one middle school, one high school, an alternative learning center and one community center.
In her own words, “pivoting is really the name of the game this year.” 50% of her students are currently remote, and not knowing what the future will bring still creates some challenges. But thanks to the creativity her staff used during the height of the pandemic, they’re now well equipped to take on any challenges impacting student participation in 2021.
“We have a really good process down for our distance meals where we make all of our entrees and put into containers and freeze them. At the beginning, this was a really daunting task. Now we have all the instructions and labels that we put on our food. That helps families be able to enjoy the food properly.”
"Parents getting to see our school nutrition firsthand has been one of our silver linings. We like to send home fun facts, like why a vegetable is a certain color or how you pronounce it, and that helps parents notice the creative and healthy food we’re feeding kids.
“Remember why you’re here. Feeding the kids is the #1 most important thing, so don’t get stuck on the details or the little fires along the way. We’ve gotten a lot of feedback from our parents and teachers taking home meals that have said ‘thank you’ and how much it’s helped their food budget – this is making an impact. I know it’s so simple, but it comes down to this: are our kids fed? Are they getting a nutritious meal? That’s all that matters.”
What Does the Future Look Like?
“We’ll continue to do a lot more grab ‘n go items. Before we used to have a salad bar that kids would customize as they walked through, and obviously we can’t do that right now. Now we have taco salads, bento boxes, Yoplait® ParfaitPro® smoothie bowls – they can just grab them and not have to stand in line.”
“We’ll keep encouraging creativity with our school nutrition staff. This year, for instance, we ended up getting 30 cases of strawberries in one week and we had to think on-the-fly on how to use ingredients and run with an idea. This has shown us that we can do a lot more scratch cooking. I think our staff has liked that a lot.”
Follow along with Sara and Fridley Public Schools to see how they continue to get students and parents excited about school food!
· Facebook: @FPSNutrition