MANKATO — When you’re at the Mankato East football game in a few weeks and you mosey on over at half-time to the concession stand to grab that hot dog and Coke, you may notice some changes in what’s available.
In addition to hot dogs, you might find yourself walking away with some string cheese or a cup of yogurt. Maybe an apple or pear. Perhaps a pouch of trail mix, a granola bar or some baked chips.
All the old stuff will be there, too. Just less of it.
It’s all part of Mankato Area Public Schools’ efforts to make food served under its auspices to be more healthful. Beyond concessions, changes have been happening steadily over the last few years to make school lunches heavier on fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
Erin Gonzalez, a Mankato Clinic dietitian who advises the school district on nutrition and menu offerings, said this fall new benchmarks are in place that all schools must meet regarding the amount of fresh fruits and vegetable and whole grains that must be served weekly.
Mankato schools, however, have been meeting those benchmarks for a year already. Gonzalez said they’d already instituted a regimen of fresh fruits and vegetables daily.
The new rules state that, with fruit, juice can be served and counted as fruit as long as it is 100 percent juice. Canned fruit can be served as well, but only if it’s served in its own juice or light syrup.
Like fruits, vegetables must be served daily. Not only that, they must emphasize a variety of colors: dark greens such as romaine lettuce, reds and oranges such as sweet peppers or carrots.
The new guidelines also call for beans to be served weekly. Gonzalez said they’re trying to come up with creative ways to introduce them to the menu, such as serving refried beans with tacos, or concocting a black bean-based salsa.