Director of Culinary and Wellness Programs, Minneapolis School District
Author: Bertrand Weber
The only surefire way to increase consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables is to provide access to fresh. Simply put, kids cannot eat what they cannot access. According to United Fresh, more than 4,000 schools and 2 million kids have access to salad bars in schools today. I’m proud to say that the Minneapolis school district, which serves more than 35,000 children every day, is among those who offer fresh fruits and vegetables through the use of salad bars.
If you are just starting your journey toward fresh fruits and vegetables in your school or are looking at new and innovative ways to keep things exciting, I offer three areas of focus: your commitment, making it fun, and your community.
Focus on your commitment
In the Minneapolis school district, our Culinary and Wellness Program’s mission is nurturing all children through access to quality food and active living. When we consider quality food, we cannot overlook fresh fruits and vegetables. That’s why we’ve made implementing salad bars in our schools a priority. Over the past four years, we have been able to bring salad bars to 90% of our schools. But, this hasn’t come easily. Some of our schools were not designed to address the refrigeration requirements needed to keep produce fresh. Some of our schools were challenged by the cost to implement salad bars. And, some of our schools were worried that kids wouldn’t like it.
We remained committed to our mission. And, to help our schools, we worked with grant programs, secured private donations, and engaged with United Fresh’s Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools program. We prioritized schools for salad bars based upon their ability to implement with relative ease. And, where we needed to, we worked with facilities management to ensure we had proper refrigeration for the produce. Finally, in schools where sanitizing equipment couldn’t be implemented, we started offering a mobile sanitizing station that delivers sanitized utensils and picks up utensils after use.
This was a significant undertaking for our district. However, we remained committed to our mission and brought it to life through salad bars. And, due to that commitment, we have reaped results beyond our imagination.