Raising the (Salad) Bar for School Lunch

February 25, 2011

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Student at McAuliffe School enjoys the salad bar at lunch.

Earlier this month, Moos Elementary School introduced a new and exciting addition to their cafeteria—a salad bar! This newest salad bar will add to the 72 salad bars that have already been placed in Chicago Public Schools, with CPS planning to put up to 110 salad bars in place across the city by the end of this school year.

The addition of these salad bars is part of an ongoing commitment to student wellness and healthy school food. In 2010, CPS adopted new nutrition standards for school meals that include more whole grains plus more, and more variety of, fruits and vegetables. These standards exceed the gold standard of the HealthierUS School Challenge, the program that First Lady Michelle Obama is urging schools to take on as part of her Let's Move initiative. (With these standards in place, CPS and HSC, along with the Illinois State Board of Education and USDA Midwest, are supporting schools in meeting the high standards for physical activity and nutrition education also set by the HealthierUS School Challenge. To learn more, check out our Go for the Gold campaign.)

Bringing salad bars to schools has been a team effort: CPS is part of Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools, a program supporting the First Lady's Let's Move initiative and working to engage stakeholders in providing salad bars for schools. Sponsors including Chiquita Food and the United Fresh Produce Association have joined the effort, with Chiquita Foods donating 10 salad bars to CPS, including the new salad bar at Moos.

Research supports the idea that salad bars encourage students to eat more produce. A USDA Food and Nutrition Services report [pdf], for example, showed that most young students do not eat the recommended five servings a day of fruits and vegetables, and that the inclusion of a salad bar at school lunch increased the amount of fresh produce students ate by 1.2 servings per student per day. Every extra serving is important! Research also indicates that students try a greater variety of fruit and vegetables when they are able to choose from a salad bar.

At the Moos salad bar debut, representatives from CPS, Chartwells-Thompson Hospitality, Chiquita Food and other health and wellness organizations enjoyed the new salad bar alongside the young students. Among the visitors was Louise Esaian, logistics officer and head of school nutrition for CPS.

“The salad bars will expand the nutrition options available to our students,” said Esaian. “The introduction of salad bars is yet another tool to educate school children and impact their dietary habits, hopefully shaping their lifelong approach to healthy eating.”

Plus! To learn more about how your CPS school can be part of the Go for the Gold campaign for school wellness, visit www.GoForTheGoldCPS.org.