October 8, 2012 by kalnajja
Increasing intake of fruits and vegetables in schools is no simple task. Children’s eating behaviors while in school are shaped by influences both in and outside of the school walls. These influences include their family, friends, community structure, and personal preference. (Considering most kids suffer through food jags, personal preference is not something to be overlooked).
Just like behavior change in adults, behavior change in kids requires a supportive structure that makes the healthy choice the easy choice. Right now, a promising program aimed at increasing fruits and vegetable intake is the Let’s Move Salad Bar to School program. This program provides an insulated salad bar equipped with tongs, trays and sneeze guards to any school who applies. Of course there are some minimum requirements for application, but it is not a competition. In other words, anyone who qualifies can receive the structure below for their school along with program resources.
What this program doesn’t provide is additional behavior change support. Research has shown that when kids learn about the fruits and vegetables served to them or have the chance to grow them themselves, they are more likely to try the foods and/or continue to select these foods at meal time.
Imagine a more evolved program that provided this concrete supportive structure as well as programming to support behavior change. Let’s call this evolved program Salad Bar to School II.
- Component 1: Salad bar Structure with Cafeteria Marketing Resources
- Component 2: Horticulture emphasis in classes for all levels
- Component 3: School Garden for learning and growing, with some veggie use for salad bar
The Eligibility Criteria for this kind of a low cost, comprehensive program might look like….
- School has to demonstrate willingness and show letters of support from 20% of school staff willing to take part in at least one aspect of the program.
- School has to have a partnership with a cooperative extension group or master gardener who is willing to teach kids and staff various tasks.
- School has to support a Horticulture Club and supply a Faculty Club Advisor.
- School has to be awarded a bronze level or above in the US Healthier school Challenge.
- School has to demonstrate they can support a salad bar every day of the week.
- School has to reflect health priorities in school policy.
The Measurable Outcomes might include pounds of fruits and vegetables selected, pounds of fruits and vegetables consumed, total number of hours children spent interacting with fruits and vegetables outside of meal time, total number of hours children spent in fruit and vegetable discussion.
The Budgetary requirements on the school itself would not be too large since the majority of this program would be supported from within the school community and the rest supplied through the original Let’s Move Salad Bar grant. Partnerships with extension agents or master gardeners would be key and staff support is necessary. This kind of program would need strong support from the administration and parents as well. Salad Bar to School II would need to get underway in the spring for there to be any success the following year. And I would anticipate would continue to increase in impact if continued the following year.
Across the nation there are some real success stories of large and small, rural and urban schools that have done something similar and found success and increased vegetable consumption for their school community. Here are some of those examples.
- Ashley Ridge HS in South Carolina (GAP Certified)
- Lawrence Barnes Elementary School in Vermont
- Auburn School District in Washington State