The Salad Bars to Schools initiative hit a milestone this year, providing more than 5,000 schools with new salad bar equipment to help students eat fresh fruits and vegetables.
A celebration for the public-private partnership was held on Oct. 11 at Lynbrook Elementary School in Springfield, Va. during National School Lunch Week. Partners of the initiative, school lunch leaders, and First Lady of Virginia Dorothy McAuliffe joined together to commend the leadership and commitment of the fresh produce industry, according to a press release.
The initiative, founded by the United Fresh Start Foundation (UFSF), Whole Foods Market, Chef Ann Foundation and the National Fruit and Vegetable Alliance, invested more than $12 million across all 50 states and provided “nearly 3 million children with daily access to fresh fruits and vegetables.”
“We really don’t see the momentum for this dropping off,” Andrew Marshall, director of foundation programs and partnerships at UFSF, told Bloomberg BNA.
The initiative doesn’t stop at just the assembly of the equipment, Marshall said, adding that the salad bar installation could be a “catalyst for change” and is “empowering kids to make healthier choices in the lunch room.”
The partnership began when the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids act was signed into law in 2010, requiring schools to serve greater amounts of fruits and vegetables. Since schools had to implement the standard, it was a great setup for the Salad Bars to Schools initiative, said Marshall.
The Centers for Disease Control reported that nutritious food is linked to academic success, specifically higher grades and standardized test scores.
There are currently more than 350 schools on the waitlist for the salad bar equipment. Some schools are even “purchasing their own salad bars and repurposing cafeteria equipment into salad bars,” UFSF chief Tom Stenzel said.
The application is an open enrollment process and schools can apply year-round. Schools who are interested can apply here.
Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue signed a proclamation in May to change local control of the whole grains, sodium, and milk guidelines after criticizing the current standards. The interim final rule was sent to the White House on July 6 and is only supposed to take 90 days to review, but officials can ask for a three-month extension.
Since the final rule did not include fruit and vegetables the Salad Bars to Schools initiative should not be impacted by Perdue’s changes, Marshall said.
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