SARTELL (WJON News) -- School districts across the state are working toward reducing food waste when it comes to menu planning and meal service.

Offer vs. Serve is a program designed to allow students to build a meal and take what they are going to eat.

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Shelby Tanner is the Food Service Director for the Sartell-St. Stephen School District. She says as part of the program students must select three of the five required food options.

The meal components are meats, grains, fruits, vegetables and milk. They really can customize their trays based on what foods they like in order to eliminate food waste and get the nutrition they need for the day.

Tanner says in addition to the main offerings, students can also select as many raw vegetables from the garden veggie bar the first time through the line without an additional charge.

Tanner says it's too early to tell how effective the program is at reducing food waste, but they are hopeful this helps build good habits for students.

In addition to the offer vs serve program, Tanner says are also exploring expanding their Minnesota grown and raised food offerings in their school meal program.

We've really just dipped our toes in to the Farm to School program this year. Next fall we are hoping to expand it and bring in more local produce into our schools.

Tanner says with meals being free to students next year, they are hopeful food waste continues to be at a minimum.

She adds even with the free meal options, it's still important families fill out meal benefit applications as they provide the district with increased funding for activity, technology, college application, and after-school childcare fees.





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