Board Support & Communications Specialist
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Students at Rose elementary are quite literally giving more food for thought about eating fruits and vegetables thanks to the installation of a salad bar, which had a soft opening at the school on April 9.
“Throughout the week, students will always see a rainbow color of fruits and vegetables offered in the salad bar,” said Sandy Huynh, Director of Student Nutrition Services.
Each day, students have the opportunity to choose from six items at the salad bar, including vegetables, fresh whole fruit, and an assortment of self-service components, such as garbanzo beans, frozen strawberries, celery sticks, and corn. These options will change periodically to offer new, seasonal produce as they become available.
Food waste in school meal programs has been a nation-wide topic, with students taking the required fruits and/or vegetables and throwing it directly into the trash can.
“Evaluating the way and the types of fruits and vegetables are being presented during lunch time can help attract students to actually consume it,” Huynh said. “What we learned is that they (students) tend to not eat something if they’re not familiar with it. So we want to start slow and put something out that they know and like already. So the strawberries were a hit.”
Both academic research and actual experience in schools across the country has shown that children significantly increase their consumption of fruits and vegetables when given a variety of choices on a school salad bar, according to the Salad Bars to School website.
Huynh noted just that, on the second and third day of the launch, students were already open to selecting more things, such as the celery or garbanzo beans.
“We also noticed that there are students becoming more open to try other types of fruits and vegetables that we have out on the line,” she said. “So it is incremental success.”
While it is too early to conclude the success of the salad bar, Huynh said there appears to be more students buying school lunches since its opening.
“You can tell from their face that they are actually excited coming through the line and looking forward to the different fruits and vegetables that they get to choose,” she said. “It’s promising because children generally are not eating enough fruits and vegetables in their diet.”
Rose Principal Nanci Pass said she was excited to have the salad bar installed at the school, and has been working with Student Nutrition Services to get it up and running for the past year.
“Over the past few years our students have engaged in Project Based Learning units that have focused on both developing healthy eating habits and reducing our waste,” she said. “The introduction of the salad bar does both. Students are choosing to eat more healthy foods and taking portions that work for them. We are also reducing the amount of trash generated during our lunch time by eliminating the individual plastic packages of vegetables that we previously served. It’s a win for both our students’ health and the environment.”
Providing healthy eating opportunities for children in schools is imperative. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, obesity prevalence among children and adolescents has almost tripled since 1980 with approximately 17 percent (12.5 million) of children and adolescents ages 2 to 19 as obese.
The salad bar was funded through the Equipment Assistant Grant from the California Department of Education. The $23,500 grant funded the equipment at Rose and Randall elementary, the latter of which a salad bar will open at next school year. Accessories including the serving utensils, pans, liners, and food are funded through the Student Nutrition Services’ budget.
“The intention of the grant was to assist Districts to purchase equipment to serve healthier meals that meet the updated meal patterns, with emphasis on serving more fruits and vegetables in school meals. This includes improving food safety and expanding access,” Huynh said.