Success Story

Communities Putting Prevention to Work 

By Kate Franken MPH, RD
Healthy School Meals Project Supervisor
Office of Statewide Health Improvement Initiatives
Minnesota Department of Health

In March 2010, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention awarded $372.8 million in Communities Putting Prevention to Work grants to 44 communities for public health efforts to improve nutrition, increase physical activity, reduce obesity, and decrease tobacco use — four critical actions to combat chronic disease and promote health. Improving nutrition, increasing physical activity, reducing obesity and decreasing tobacco use are, of course, critical concerns for state maternal and child health (MCH) programs. And, in the states, many MCH programs are working closely with their chronic disease programs on these efforts. The following success story outlines one of these collaborative efforts in Minnesota.  

As children consume 20 to 50 percent of their daily calories at school, the school food environment is an important platform from which to address the disparate rates of childhood obesity. Yet, school nutrition professionals are faced with significant barriers in their attempts to improve the nutritional value of foods served, including the higher cost of fresh, healthy foods; limited space, time and equipment to prepare creative meals; and few opportunities for adequate training. 

The Minnesota Department of Health and seven statewide partner organizations are implementing a program to address these barriers. The program is supported by a $2.3 million grant from the CDC and is part of a comprehensive public health strategy called Communities Putting Prevention to Work – State and Territories Initiatives which aims to improve nutrition, increase physical activity, and decrease smoking.  

The program, called the Great Trays Partnership, supports Minnesota schools and their nutrition professionals by:

  • Inviting more public schools to take advantage of significant food cost savings through the Minnesota School Food Buying Group, a nonprofit food cooperative that negotiates with manufacturers to lower the cost of healthier foods, particularly fruits, vegetables and whole grain foods, and processed foods that are lower in sodium and saturated fat. 
  • Training schools with skill-based strategies to maximize efficiency and prepare nutritious meals that appeal to kids. Participants will learn techniques that have been researched, tested and proven to result in high quality meals, a balanced budget and improved customer satisfaction.  

Trainings begin in 2011; program outcomes and a sustainability plan will be published by 2012. For more information, contact Kate Franken at the Minnesota Department of Health.