On January 24th and 25th The John C. Stalker Institute of Food and Nutrition (JSI), in conjunction with the Mass. Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Office of Nutrition, Health and Safety (ESE) convened an expert panel at Framingham State University to design a four-week cycle menu for the Massachusetts Menu Planning Project. The new menu was created using the lunch preferences from an online survey of students in grades K-12 from across the Commonwealth. The survey was used to determine what students did and did not like about the lunches being served at their schools. Members of the panel used the data from the survey results along with the new school nutrition regulatory requirements to develop a menu that will be both tasty and appealing to students. Keeping the student’s wants and needs in mind while creating this menu is important to encourage participation in the school nutrition program, as well as to allow more students to leave the school cafeteria satisfied!
“Through the Massachusetts Menu Planning Project school districts will have a resource to implement a 4-week cycle menu that meets federal regulations. The menu cycle streamlines the challenges of planning menus and incorporates recipes, student preferences, and support the nutrition needs of students in Massachusetts schools.”
Katie Millett, Executive Director, MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Office of Nutrition, Health and Safety
The expert panel was made up of representatives from the Mass. Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, school nutrition directors, menu planning consultants, the JSI team, as well as stakeholders from , Project Bread, Action for Healthy Kids, United States Department of Agriculture, MA Department of Public Health and the New England Dairy Council.
Over the upcoming weeks, the team will work to finalize the menus, and then analyze the nutrients from each meal in accordance with the school lunch requirements. Once complete, binders will be created to include the cycle menus (for each the elementary, middle and high school), nutrient analysis, recipes and food specifications. School nutrition directors should be on the lookout in the Spring for these binders!
Need some ideas on how to meet the new meal pattern into your school nutrition menu? Check out the variety of Workshops to Go offered by JSI that focus on meeting the new meal pattern. These include the Back to Basics series, Prep Up to the New Nutrition Guidelines and Wheel of Portion. ESE has provided additional funds targeted to support the new meal pattern requirements. Be sure to take advantage of these JSI trainings!