Are Salad Bars in Schools a Fruitful Option?

June 30, 2015 | By Jerry Ashworth | Post a Comment

salad-1424435-mSome legislative proposals on Capitol Hill make perfect sense, while others are definite head scratchers. And then there are some that, in theory, sound totally reasonable, but in practicality, maybe not so much. For example, let’s turn to a bill recently introduced by Democratic Reps. Tim Ryan (Ohio), Sam Farr (Calif.) and Frederica S. Wilson (Fla.) called the Salad Bar in Schools Expansion Act (H.R. 2627).

The idea is to create a healthier option for children in schools. The bill’s sponsors tout that salad bars have been recognized as a highly successful, cost-effective strategy to help schools comply with federal regulations. This legislation establishes a new program to provide training, technical assistance and placement of salad bars in elementary, middle and high schools across the country.

“Currently, one-third of the children in the United States are overweight or obese, putting them at risk for heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and other chronic diseases,” Ryan said. “As a parent, I understand the importance of teaching our children how to eat healthier, and it is our responsibility to help reverse this dangerous trend. Salad bars have proven to be an effective and affordable way to make school lunch more nutritious.”

Added Wilson, “As a lifelong educator and longtime school principal, I know that salad bars are an innovative way for children to get the healthy, nutrient-rich foods they need to learn and grow. In all my time as a school principal, I have never seen my students more excited about lunch than when we brought in a salad bar.”

Obviously, the legislation has been endorsed by the United Fresh Produce Association, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, the American Heart Association and other associations representing growers of fruits and vegetables.

So, yes, salad bars do have their advantages. Yet I’m a bit skeptical. Salad bars may not be a viable option in all schools. They were not a fixture when I was in school, and I’m not certain they would’ve survived a single school year in the schools I attended. Many school lunchrooms are unbelievably crowded and students are given a small amount of time to consume their lunches. Typical lunch lines traditionally move slowly, but the food is portioned out at a constant pace. Salad bar lines move even slower as students attempt to determine which foods they want to eat, and these lines can get even more congested if students try to backtrack to add foods missed the first time. There also are no barriers to the old-fashioned “cutting in line” to grab a certain food off the salad bar. Not to mention the fact that because the food is openly available, different foods could be mixed together, and could be contaminated without proper oversight.

Yes, many schools with salad bars wholeheartedly support them. Still, salad bars may not work for all schools. Schools without them should consider how they would work in their cafeteria environment. The bill now sits in the House Education and the Workforce Committee. It will be interesting to see how far it gets.

Let us know what your thoughts are about salad bars in schools and whether federal funding for salad bars is worthwhile.


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