Plant-Based Progress: Wholesome Minnesota’s Spring 2024 Highlights

May 24, 2024

Karen Students at St. Paul ECFE class tasting some yummy plant-based fooods

CAA’s Wholesome Minnesota program made a big impact this spring! We held multiple events promoting plant-based diets with a variety of groups. Jodi Gruhn, Wholesome MN Director, inspired students and families through presentations, cooking sessions, and interactive activities.

The focus was on the critical link between diet and personal and environmental health. This message resonated with diverse audiences, encouraging healthier and more sustainable dietary choices. This blog provides an overview of each of the presentations.

Hopkins FACS Class

Wholesome MN conducted a two-day intensive session with the Family Consumer Science (FACS) class at Hopkins High School. On the first day, Jodi presented on human and environmental health. She emphasized the significant impact of animal agriculture and factory farming. Students were particularly surprised to learn that producing a single ⅓ lb. hamburger requires about 660 gallons of water. They also enjoyed a demonstration on making Oreo truffles.

On the second day, the students put their cooking skills to the test. They prepared Mexican-inspired quinoa and sticky cauliflower. To show how flexible vegan cooking can be, Jodi encouraged them to think of other flavors that might taste good. The experimenting began — with buffalo sauce taking it for the win!

Trail Loppet Event

Wholesome Minnesota partners with the Loppet Foundation for two family-friendly events each year. This includes participation in the Trail Loppet and the Loppet Field Day. These events attract numerous families who are dedicated to health and environmental causes. This is reflected in their participation in trail running, nordic skiing, and mountain biking. The Trail Loppet, held on Sunday, May 19, was filled with celebration and festivities at the finish line. 

This year, there was a noticeable increase in interest in plant-based diets compared to last year. Jodi received numerous questions about transitioning to a plant-based diet, managing cooking time, and sourcing plant-based proteins. She also introduced attendees to the Twin Cities Veg Fest, which was new to many. 

The Wholesome MN booth at the Trail Loppet event engaged over 200 youths with a spin-the-wheel game. Questions focused on the impact of dietary choices on health, and the environment. Many parents were surprised to learn that all plants contain protein.

St. Paul Public Schools ECFE Classes

Wholesome Minnesota presented to St. Paul Public Schools Early Childhood Family Education (ECFE) classes. These focused on members of the Karen community. Karens resettled in Minnesota to avoid ethnic cleansing by the Burmese Military Dictatorship. The Karen population in Minnesota is estimated at over 17,000. 

Although the Karen diet is vegetable-rich, it also includes a significant amount of meat. Karen children in the U.S. often adopt the Standard American Diet (SAD) — high in ultra-processed and fast foods. As a result, health concerns are also common.  

With the help of a translator, Jodi discussed the health impacts of the SAD. She also shared information about the environmental consequences of animal agriculture. The discussions were lively and covered topics such as foraging, and budget-friendly cooking. They also discussed the value of starting with one plant-based meal per week.

Blake Wonderfair

Wholesome MN was invited to have a table at Blake School’s Wonderfair, held on April 23. Aimee Nezhukumatathil, author of World of Wonders, was the featured speaker. The event, co-hosted with Milkweed Editions, showcased organizations focusing on environmental education. 

At the Wholesome MN booth, over 100 youth were engaged by a spin-the-wheel activity. The questions were age-appropriate and covered the impact of food choices on the environment.

Bloomington High School Green Team

For Earth Day, Advisor Mark Robinson and the Bloomington High School Green Team planted trees. They also served a plant-based lunch to community volunteers. To celebrate Earth Day at school, Support + Feed, a partner of Wholesome Minnesota, donated Tony’s candy bars. The chocolates were wrapped in “Fight Climate Change with Diet Change” flyers and were distributed to students. 

In early May, Wholesome Minnesota and Support + Feed brought Buffalo Chikn Wraps from J. Selby’s to a student meeting. They facilitated a discussion about strategies to increase student interest in plant-based options as well as future collaborations.

School of Environmental Studies (Apple Valley)

Wholesome Minnesota participated in Earth Day events at the School of Environmental Studies. They are a District 196 magnet school for juniors and seniors focusing on environmental education. These highly engaged students were aware of the environmental impacts of the food system. However they were not sure how to transition to a more plant-based diet. 

Jodi introduced them to the wide variety of events and resources provided by Compassionate Action for Animals. There was a lot of interest in Twin Cities Veg Fest. Many expressed interest in transitioning to a plant-based diet. They requested recipes and influencer recommendations.

Minnesota School Nutrition Webinar

In April, Wholesome Minnesota presented a webinar titled “Save the Planet, Serve More Plants” to school nutrition professionals. This Earth Month webinar highlighted how school nutrition can significantly impact the environment. Initiatives like buying local, reducing plastic waste, and composting are important. However, Jodi shared that the most impactful change would be adopting more plant-based meals in the cafeteria. 

Jodi demonstrated three dishes from Forward Food — nutty noodles, breakfast sushi, and a blazin’ buffalo ranch wrap. The webinar was well received, with requests to share it with attendees and make it available to all Minnesota School Nutrition Association (MSNA) members.

What is Wholesome Minnesota?

Wholesome MN helps Minnesota’s food service leaders to simplify the process of creating culturally inclusive, healthy, money-saving, and climate-friendly menus. To do so, the Wholesome Minnesota Director, Jodi Gruhn, works closely with school nutrition directors and Family and Consumer Science (FACS) teachers.

While Wholesome MN partners with a variety of organizations, it finds increasing impact in working directly with student groups. These environmentally focused groups are initially attracted by the connection between diet and environmental impact. 

Wholesome Minnesota’s mission is: To accelerate plant-based food offerings in Minnesota’s institutions and create a healthier community. 

Wholesome’s partners

Support+Feed ( is partnering with CAA’s Wholesome Minnesota to educate youth groups on the importance of plant-based eating. The issue being presented is related to the benefits for both personal health and the environment.Other partners include: Forward Food, Friends of the Earth, Minnesota Public Health Association, Loppet Foundation, Richfield Public Schools, Robbinsdale Area Schools, and Unitarian Universalist congregations. Will you be next? Find out more on how to get involved.

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