USA Today: A school ditched processed food 7 years ago, and student lunch sales skyrocketed

Bertrand Weber’s passion to take school lunches out of the trenches of processed food and back to whole foods is transforming Minneapolis lunchrooms.

by Jana Shortal | KARE-TV, Minneapolis-St. Paul | December 20, 2018

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — Minneapolis Public Schools swapped processed foods for whole foods nearly seven years ago, and the district reports selling over a million more meals because of it.

The change happened when Bertrand Weber, now director of the district’s Culinary and Wellness Services, introduced children to whole chickens instead of nuggets and actual potatoes instead of tater tots.

Weber’s love for whole foods began 31 years ago, after his son was diagnosed as a child with Type 1 diabetes.

“That’s when I started looking into school lunch and holy crap, we needed to do something,” Weber said, recalling that time.

Weber was a man born into the art of food with a long line of food artisans on his father’s side in Switzerland.

His family moved to Florida to open a restaurant as a teenager and after working for them and then for decades on his own in major kitchens, came to his home in honing the trays of lunch food, first in Hopkins and now in Minneapolis.

His goal was simple: Get rid of processed food and give way to whole foods.

“I started thinking, ‘Why can’t we just go back to real food?’ It’s not rocket science,” Weber said.

This is one school lunch option at Minneapolis Public Schools.
Ben Garvin, KARE-TV, Minneapolis-St. Paul

He says whole foods are actually cheaper to buy in bulk and make into something good that kids will eat.

In his time in Minneapolis, the district has served 1.2 million more meals today than it did in 2012, which means they are liking it, and eating it.

“They are baby steps but we are introducing them to whole grains, different flavors and textures. It’s not always the most popular but every time we run a new menu item we see kids take a little more at a time,” Weber said.