Image of a salad bar with sign that reads "Proud to support salad bars in schools" with the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network logo

New Salad Bar Means Healthier Choices for Michigan School for the Deaf

When it comes to getting kids to eat nutritious foods, access and presentation matter.

Brittany Damerow is director of dining services at the Michigan School for the Deaf, located in Flint. She’s excited about a new salad bar the school received with funding from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. A special assembly is planned for Thursday, May 31 to officially introduce students to the new addition to the cafeteria, which will help create an appetizing and colorful experience.

“If the food doesn’t look good, the kids won’t readily try it, which is something this bar will help with,” Damerow said.

Since 2015, BCBSM has helped place 54 salad bars in Michigan schools in an effort to combat childhood obesity. The salad bar at the Michigan School for the Deaf is one of 20 that were funded this school year by BCBSM and supported through a partnership with United Fresh Start Foundation. School food service directors apply for the salad bars through the Salad Bars to Schools initiative at www.saladbars2schools.org.

Andrew Marshall, director of foundation programs and partnerships at the United Fresh Start Foundation, said salad bars are more than just fancy pieces of equipment. They’re conversation starters that can spark a dialogue about healthier habits at school and at home. They allow students to take control of their menu, choosing foods they truly enjoy.

“One of the things they love is the ability to make their own choices,” Marshall said. “It’s something colorful, it’s something exciting. They like having ownership of their own lunch.”

The Michigan School for the Deaf is a special place, Damerow said. About 160 students attend from all over the state of Michigan. About 60 currently reside on campus in dorms, with programs ranging from pre-K to “14th-grade”, which provides opportunities for those 18-26 years old.

The Michigan School for the Deaf is also part of the Building Healthy Communities program which helps schools establish environments that support health. Since 2009, the Building Healthy Communities program has helped more than 270,000 students in more than 600 schools learn to make healthier choices and be more physically active. The new salad bar complements this ongoing program.

Image of a student selecting food from the salad bar. Damerow has been consciously working to increase fruit and vegetable consumption at the school. She’s been using a makeshift salad bar, placing pans of fruits and vegetables out on ice. Keeping temperatures consistent has been challenging and limited space makes it hard for her to put out everything she’d like to in an effort to provide more options. With a tight budget, she was making do, but said the salad bar will be a true game changer.

“This is an amazing gift that Blue Cross gave to us,” Damerow said. “With the salad bar, it’s just going to enhance the program.”

The salad bar will be used at breakfast, lunch and dinner for on-campus students. Damerow is excited to experiment with fresh new recipes to keep kids interested and adventurous when it comes to eating. Staff are also welcoming the new addition.

“The students are excited about it and the staff are as well,” she said.

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