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SLU Nutrition and Dietetics School Lunch Program Helps Feed the St. Louis Community

The Saint Louis University (SLU) Nutrition and Dietetics department has been working to replace some of the processed food on the lunch menus of local school districts with fresh produce in an initiative called the School Lunch Program. 

Student cooking lunches for school lunch program
SLU Nutrition and Dietetics student Yiming Sun cooking food for the School Lunch Program.

The School Lunch Program began as a Missouri Foundation for Health grant titled Healthy Eating with Local Produce (HELP) in the fall of 2009. At that time, the only school district involved in the program was Maplewood-Richmond Heights. Over the past decade, the School Lunch Program has worked with numerous schools. Currently, the four local schools involved in the School Lunch Program are Atlas Middle School, City Garden Montessori School, Kairos Academy and Marian Middle School. The program provides approximately 300 breakfasts and 525 lunches daily across the four schools.

The food for the School Lunch Program is processed at the university’s Food Innovation Center (FIC) – a 6,000 square foot kitchen and storage facility. The School Lunch Program includes made-from-scratch breakfast, lunch and snack menus that vary based on seasonal availability. In addition, students at the participating schools are highly encouraged to provide feedback on the menus for future consideration. 

The School Lunch Program has been managed by SLU Dietitian Xiao Liang, MS, RD, LD. Liang, who is an alumna of the SLU Nutrition and Dietetics Food Innovation and Entrepreneurship program, is passionate about being able to improve lives through nutrition.

“I feel that I am connecting SLU and the community through making food for them and have been able to make a difference for the kids through their diet and encouraging a healthy lifestyle,” Liang said. 

Student prepping food for the School Lunch Program
SLU Nutrition and Dietetics student Gracie Cox preparing food for the School Lunch Program.

SLU Nutrition and Dietetics Interim Chairperson Anthony Breitbach, Ph.D., ATC, FASAHP, FNAP, appreciates the opportunity that the School Lunch Program provides the department to connect to the St. Louis community.

“The School Lunch Program provides the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics and our students the opportunity to make an impact on our community,” Dr. Breitbach said. “They are truly serving as persons for and with others in SLU’s Jesuit tradition.”

Saint Louis University is a Catholic, Jesuit institution that values academic excellence, life-changing research, compassionate health care, and a strong commitment to faith and service. Founded in 1818, the University fosters the intellectual and character development of nearly 13,000 students on two campuses in St. Louis and Madrid, Spain. Building on a legacy of more than 200 years, Saint Louis University continues to move forward with an unwavering commitment to a higher purpose, a greater good.