Growing Up Fresh

The United Fresh Start Foundation is focused on one core mission — to increase children’s access to fresh fruits and vegetables.

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How We Launched a Salad Bars Movement

Sep 13, 2018

When we provided our first school salad bar in 2009, we didn’t realize it at the time, but it was the beginning of a nationwide movement that has come to inspire and enable nearly 45 percent of middle and high schools to offer a salad bar. And, for the first time, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers salad bars an indicator of fruit and vegetable access.

We’ve long known that salad bars help kids eat healthy, but skyrocketing rates of salad bars in cafeterias and recognition from the nation’s leading health agency confirm the positive impact that a salad bar can have on school children.

While we can’t take all the credit, we were leaders in providing kids access to fresh fruits and vegetables through salad bars – an effective strategy in increasing produce consumption rates that has spread through school cafeterias across the country. Here’s how we did it:

  • In 2009, we displayed a salad bar at our Fresh Festival on Capitol Hill during The Washington Conference, and showcased the value of school salad bars to members of Congress and industry leaders. We donated the salad bar to a school in Washington, DC.
  • Later in 2009, we brought university researchers and school foodservice leaders to Washington, DC for a Congressional briefing on the benefits of school salad bars.
  • In 2010, we launched an initial salad bar campaign, A Salad Bar in Every School campaign, laying the groundwork for what would become a national model.
  • Later in 2010, we transitioned our campaign to include additional partners and launched Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools with First Lady Michelle Obama at Riverside Elementary School in Miami, cementing our program as part of her national Let’s Move!
  • In 2017, we hit a major milestone – 5,000 salad bars placed in school cafeterias!
  • In 2018, the CDC included – for the first time – salad bars in their State Indicator Report on Fruits and Vegetables, having determined that the presence of a salad bar indicates fruit and vegetable access.

The best part? The impact extends beyond the salad bar itself. A recent Salad Bars to Schools evaluation report indicated that over 32% of school district respondents who had received a salad bar during the 2017-2018 school year saw school lunch program participation increase by ten percent or more. Eighty-two percent have increased procurement of fruits and vegetables as a result of the salad bar. Schools are even enhancing the salad bar with taste testing, classroom education, events, and parent engagement.

While we’ve come a long way, we won’t stop until every school has a salad bar featuring fresh fruits and vegetables. Today, we have 347 schools on the waiting list for salad bars. It is our hope that when school doors open next fall, every child at those 347 schools will walk into the cafeteria and be greeted with a salad bar brimming with fresh, healthy fruits and vegetables.

If you’re interested in contributing to fulfilling this need, please contact Andrew Marshall at amarshall@unitedfresh.org.

By: Kate Olender, Senior Director, Senior Director, Health & Wellness, United Fresh Produce Association

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