Noelle is a second-year MPH Nutrition student in the coordinated masters program and an MCH Nutrition trainee at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities. She completed her bachelors of science at the University of Nebraska- Lincoln in nutrition, exercise, and health sciences in 2017 with minors in Spanish and business administration. After graduation in August 2019, Noelle plans to work in school nutrition.
This summer I had the opportunity to complete one of my dietetic rotations at the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) working with the School Nutrition Programs team. Over the course of ten weeks, I…
- assisted with school nutrition program and summer feeding program reviews
- learned about the USDA School Nutrition Program policies
- created training materials for school food service directors and workers
- worked on projects to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the school nutrition program review process
- and much more!
One of my favorite projects was creating Visual Portion Size Guides for training food service workers on visually identifying portion sizes of fresh fruits and vegetables as students bring their trays through the lunch line. Many schools in Minnesota have begun implementing salad bars in cafeterias which is great for allowing students more choices and access to fresh fruits and vegetables. However, because students are serving themselves, it can be more challenging to determine if they have taken enough of a fruit or vegetable to meet the meal pattern requirements for a reimbursable meal. The nutrition consultants noticed this issue while visiting schools on reviews and wanted to create something to help.
After discussing with the team, we came up with the idea to take photographs of fresh fruits and vegetables on a school lunch tray in different portion sizes and create life-size photo cards. These cards could then be used for training to become more familiar with the various quantities or even be kept at the registers for reference. We selected common fruits and vegetables, purchased them, cleaned and chopped them, set-up the lighting, and took the photos. There was definitely a lot of questions from other MDE staff in the kitchen area and lots of snacks to pass around once we were done! The final product was cards of 9 fruits and 14 vegetables that showed portion sizes of ¼ cup, ½ cup, and ¾ cup of each.
At the end of the summer, I was able to attend the Minnesota School Nutrition Association annual conference in Rochester, Minnesota. We gave out samples of the visual portion size guides at the MDE booth during the expo and it was really exciting to talk to school food service directors. They all seemed really happy that this resource was available to help train their staff and were excited to use it. Now, the cards are available online on MDE’s website so anyone can print and use them.
Here are some examples of the cards (not to scale):
Full versions can be found at: