Hello Seward Parents,
My name is Tracy Singleton and my daughter Lily is an E1 student in Room 118. Those of you who know me know I also own the Birchwood Cafe, a neighborhood restaurant just a few blocks east of the school, on 25th Street.
A few years ago I had the wonderful opportunity to collaborate with Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) Director of Culinary and Nutrition Services, Bertrand Weber, to help raise both awareness and the profile of a new food program initiative he was launching for MPS called True Food. Working together, we formed the True Food Chef Council, a group of Minneapolis chefs and restauranteurs dedicated to supporting MPS in providing both nutritious and delicious menu options.
Studies have shown that food impacts student behavior and learning, and we are lucky to have Bertrand at the helm of our food program. Bertand recognizes the importance of ensuring that all students have access to fresh, nutritious food, and that this is foundational in supporting students to access their potential. Bertrand was also a national leader in the Farm to School movement.
It has been amazing to watch the changes unfold in all Minneapolis lunch rooms, as salad bars and real kitchens cooking local and sustainably sourced ingredients on-site replace plastic-wrapped, pre-packaged food. I’m still in awe of the transformation in our own school lunchroom: I love all the natural light, and that the cooking happens out in the open for everyone to see!
Two of my favorite MPS True Food initiatives are Minnesota (MN) Thursdays and the True Food Taste Tests.
MN Thursday happens the first Thursday of every month and features seasonal, locally-grown ingredients! Minnesota Thursdays help us highlight local farmers, ranchers, and companies while providing fresh, seasonal, and delicious options for our students. The November MN Thursday will take place on November 10th (because there is no school on November 3rd, the first Thursday of the month). The menu for that day is: Roast Turkey—Ferndale Market (Cannon Falls, MN) Mashed Potatoes/Roasted Potatoes with Gravy— Hugh’s Gardens (Halstad, MN) Roasted Carrots—Open Hands (Northfield, MN) Cranberry Dinner Roll—Great Northern Bakery (St. Paul, MN) Snickerdoodle Cookie—Cookie Cart (Minneapolis, MN)
MN Thursdays are a great way for kids to learn about the importance of knowing where our food comes from and that buying local food helps build community. They are also great days for kids (and parents!) to try out school lunch, knowing that it is sourced close to home, sustainably grown, nutritious, and tastes great, too.
True Food Taste Tests are another awesome way to expose our kids to new foods, to encourage them to be adventurous eaters, and to ask them to think critically about food beyond LIKE vs. DISLIKE. The next True Food Taste Test will take place on November 17th. In conjunction with Native American Family Involvement Day, students will be tasting a Manoomin Salad with wild rice, cranberries, squash, and blueberries! During the taste test, teachers and parent volunteers hand out small samples and prompt students to think about the dish—does it remind you of something you have had before? Do you recognize the ingredients? What flavors do you taste? What colors do you see? What does the texture remind you of? Those who try it get a cool taste test sticker, and they also get to suggest a name for the salad. At last year’s Taste Test my daughter Lily and her classmates came up with the name “Far Out Farro” for a Farro Salad with orange curry vinaigrette, a recipe inspired by the Birchwood Cafe that is now featured in Seward’s new salad bar.
Parents, we need you to help us make the Taste Tests a success. Talk it up the night before, and ask about it when your kids come home. The Taste Tests are a fun way to volunteer at school, and all parents are welcome and encouraged to participate! If you are interested in helping out, please sign up online at volunteer.sewardmontessori.org.