Minnesota, Oregon schools win whole grains awards

by Jeff Gelski
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BOSTON — St. Paul Public Schools in St. Paul, Minn., was the grand prize “veteran” winner in the sixth annual Whole Grains Challenge from the Boston-based Whole Grains Challenge. Baker School District in Baker City, Ore., was the “rookie” winner.

The Whole Grains Challenge this year divided into two categories. Veteran schools were those who have a history of innovating with whole grain dishes. Rookie schools were those who ramped up quickly after the U.S. Department of Agriculture said that for this school year and the 2013-14 school year, whole grain-rich products must make up half of all grain products offered to students.

The St. Paul Public Schools slowly incorporate new foods and honor the diverse ethnic backgrounds of its student population. The district has offered whole grains for more than six years. Jessica Wicker, food service director for the Baker School District, hung posters, engaged her students in trivia games and staged recipe competitions.

“Every school district in the country has been working hard this fall to implement major changes in school lunch requirements for more fruits, vegetables and whole grains,” said Cynthia Harriman, director of food and nutrition strategies for the Whole Grains Council, a program of the non-profit Oldways. “These Whole Grains Challenge winners demonstrate that school lunches featuring whole grains can indeed be nutritious, delicious and filling. These winning schools are inspiring models for others throughout the country and show how collaboration and inventiveness can lead to satisfied students in the cafeteria.”

The two grand prize winners will receive a visit from a guest chef who will hold a workshop on making whole grain child-friendly dishes. The two schools and eight others make up a top 10 list and will receive a selection of whole grain samples.

The eight other winners were New York Department of Education; Shawnee Public Schools in Shawnee, Okla.; Chelsea Public Schools in Chelsea, Vt.; New Milford Public Schools in New Milford, Conn; Southwest Middle School in Orlando, Fla.; Union Chapel Elementary in Kansas City; Park School in Baltimore; and Grace Hartman Elementary in Rockwall, Texas.
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