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Why Salad Bars?

Of all the changes put in place with the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010, arguably the biggest shift was the requirement for students to take a half cup of fruit or vegetable for breakfast and lunch.

Prior to 2012, fruits and vegetables were combined as one food group and only offering them was required. A student could take 3 of the 5 options for “offer versus serve” and entirely skip fruits and vegetables. The positive health impact of eating fruits and vegetables is well documented and now considered an intervention as well as a preventative measure against many diseases. This is reflected in consistently in the USDA’s guidance Choose My Plate, where half of the the virtual plate consists of fruits and vegetables.

One challenge is teaching our kids to choose and enjoy fruits and vegetables. While the meal requirements literally force the students to take a fruit or vegetable with breakfast and lunch, eating that choice is another matter. Salad bars serve as a platform to teach, encourage, and tempt students with a dazzling array of fruits and vegetables. Research shows that salad bars increase consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables and increase meal program participation. In our fast-food and packaged world, fresh foods can be “foreign,” so every measure to counter that trend is essential.

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