ST. CLOUD -- Hundreds of school nutrition experts spent this week in St. Cloud.

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The Minnesota School Nutrition Association’s annual conference wrapped up Wednesday at the River’s Edge Convention Center.

This year, a trend was emerging. The more than 700 participants were interested in how to buy local for their school lunchrooms. Sarah Herdine  is a customer account specialist with Minnesota-based General Mills. She says a key to selling to schools is the flexibility of your product.

So right now, with the supply chain being tough, it is how can you take an item menu three different ways? How can you excite your students to have them want to come to eat lunch with you using an item in a couple of different formats?

MSNA President Carrie Frank has been buying local for years in her school district. She says it’s a win-win for everyone.

Oh, it was great. We purchased our products, we purchased our protein. And we use a local processor, a USDA processor. So all the money stays local.

Dennis Terrance is with Minnesota-based Bernatello’s Pizza. The new “Hungry Bear” pizza is made to meet the school’s nutritional requirements.

Basically, we have to start with a 51% whole grain crust. With that, you get a very grainy taste in your product. So being able to make a sauce and use good quality cheese and good quality meats to help cover the taste of that grain is your goal. That gives these kids the tastes that they want.

However, there are rules and nutritional guidelines that have to be followed for local businesses looking to sell to area schools. He reminds everyone to be flexible and tweak their recipes to meet the demands.

We use turkey pepperoni. Mainly because of religious beliefs. There are a lot of groups out there who don't believe in eating pork. So we have substituted with a turkey pepperoni versus a pork pepperoni. Because it then is in line with what they want.

Participants attended seminars and a trade show featuring hundreds of products for school lunchrooms.

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