School Salad Bars Give Students a Fresh and Healthy Choice

Amy Nichols has a spinach problem, but it’s one other school district food service directors might envy.

Since installing a salad bar at South Haven’s Baseline Middle School in February and another at North Shore Elementary about two weeks ago, Nichols said kids at both schools are clamoring for the healthy green stuff.

“We have spinach every day on both bars because if we don’t, we hear about it,” she said.

South Haven’s new salad bars are part of a statewide initiative by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Meijer to increase fresh fruit and vegetable consumption in school lunchrooms. The 20 salad bars donated to schools across Michigan are expected to benefit 10,000 students.

“Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan is thrilled to partner with Meijer to provide salad bars to schools across the state” said Pam Yager, manager, Social Mission, Blue Cross. “Many of the schools receiving salad bars are also part of the Building Healthy Communities program which is designed to help students make the healthy choice the easy choice and to be more active. The salad bars are a perfect fit with those goals and our larger social mission to make Michigan healthier.”

The salad bar at Baseline Middle School. Pictured on left side are: Harold Van Eerden, COO, Van Eerden Food Service; Amy Nichols, Food Service Director, South Haven Public Schools; Carey Frost, Director of Instructional Services, South Haven Public Schools; Dr. William Stitt, principal, Baseline Middle School; Pam Yager, manager, BCBSM Social Mission. Pictured on the right are: Students Anna, Gabby, and Sam; Tom Stenzel, CEO, United Fresh Produce Association; Jackie DeBruler, Health and Wellness Director, Meijer.

The salad bar at Baseline Middle School. Pictured on left side are: Harold Van Eerden, COO, Van Eerden Food Service; Amy Nichols, Food Service Director, South Haven Public Schools; Carey Frost, Director of Instructional Services, South Haven Public Schools; Dr. William Stitt, principal, Baseline Middle School; Pam Yager, manager, BCBSM Social Mission. Pictured on the right are: Students Anna, Gabby, and Sam; Tom Stenzel, CEO, United Fresh Produce Association; Jackie DeBruler, Health and Wellness Director, Meijer.

BCBSM’s Building Healthy Communities program provides a range of resources for schools across Michigan to help kids establish the knowledge and behaviors needed for healthy lifestyles and for schools to create healthy environments.

Research and experience in schools across the country demonstrate that children significantly increase their fruit and vegetable consumption when given a variety of choices in a school salad bar. Salad bars empower students to make their own healthy choices and create excitement about trying new fruits and vegetables. They are also an easy way for schools to meet new school lunch nutrition standards, which require serving a larger amount and variety of fruits and vegetables.

Students and staff in South Haven have enthusiastically embraced the option to make their own customized salad for lunch. Besides offering an opportunity to fill up on fresh produce, Nichols said the salad bar gives her one more tool to educate students about good nutrition and to preach the virtues of variety.

On any given day, a rainbow of red peppers, dried cranberries, mandarin oranges, snap peas, garbanzo beans and other delicious, nutritious toppings can be found. Nichols makes it her mission to get kids to step outside of their fruit and vegetable comfort zone and try new things. Sometimes, even she’s surprised by how adventurous her charges can be.

“I put kale out there the other day and they ate me out of kale,” she said. “It’s always amazing to me when I see kids eat salad.”

Other Michigan schools receiving the salad bars include:

  • Allendale Christian School, Allendale
  • Harper Creek Middle School, Battle Creek (2 salad bars)
  • STEAM Academy at MLK, Benton Harbor
  • The Dearborn Academy, Dearborn (2 salad bars)
  • Delton Kellogg Middle School, Delton
  • Dixon Educational Learning Academy, Detroit
  • Grandville Middle School, Grandville
  • Central Elementary School, Grandville
  • Clarenceville Middle School, Livonia
  • Lessenger Elementary School, Madison Heights
  • Madison Elementary School, Madison Heights
  • Michigan Technical Academy, Redford Charter Township
  • Royal Oak High School, Royal Oak
  • Oakridge Elementary School, Royal Oak
  • Adler Elementary School, Southfield
  • Stevenson Elementary School, Southfield

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