SARTELL -- School nutrition professionals across the state are busy preparing to nourish thousands of students for the upcoming school year.

Over 500 cafeteria managers and staff were in St. Cloud last week for The 64th annual state conference of the Minnesota School Nutrition Association to discuss the latest trends and challenges.


Allison Eikmeier is the Assistant Food Service Director for the Sartell-St. Stephen school district. She says after a year of grab-and-go meal scenarios, they are hoping not only to have students back in the cafeteria, but provide more food options.

We are crossing our fingers that we will have most students eating in the cafeteria. This year we are really hopeful that we can get out a lot more variety for our students and adding back some of those classic favorites students are used to eating.

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Eikmeier says they are also letting families know that the U.S. Department of Agriculture is continuing to provide free breakfast and lunch for all current students ages 3-18 for this school year.

She says because of that, there remains a growing concern surrounding the misinformation about the Meal Benefits program. Many families view meal benefits as just free or reduced meals, however that's not the case.

Eikmeier says meal benefit applications don't just insure students get free meals, it also provides additional resources for families and the district.

Students that would qualify for these benefits, they would have reduction in fees for athletics and other school programs.

Funding from this program helps with things like technology, and other critical funding.

Eikmeier says often times families are surprised to learn they quality because the income thresholds for meal benefits may be higher that other programs.

All applications must be reapplied annually and are anonymous.


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