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November 1, 2013

Salad Bar Hopping

by Tracy Jensen

There’s been much said about school lunches, the new standards for healthier offerings, and how well these healthy choices are received by kids in schools. Many schools are adding optional salad bars, including ours. I asked my daughter how it was and she, being kind of a big meat eater, had not tried it yet. So in the spirit of finding out for myself, I decided to stop by and give it a try, and share with you all my VERY INFORMAL sampling of the school salad-bar experience.

For starters, I was given a tray with a mix of spinach and other lettuces. Then you proceed to the salad bar, where you can help yourself to the eight self-serve options for “toppings,” a pre-measured cup of cheese, and a pre-measured serving of low-fat dressings. Toppings included cherry tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, chickpeas, and roasted corn, among others. Each topping had a measured serving scoop, and there was a little printed “guide” to inform the kids how much of each they should take.

This is a pretty good idea for kids who maybe either haven’t been to a salad bar before or just get overly enthusiastic to learn how to visualize proper portioning. I took a pass on the cauliflower (and by the looks of the two containers, I was not alone) but opted for the chocolate milk because – why not? If I am going grade-school, might as well go all in.

Overall, I would say the salad was pretty good and quite filling. It had a good mix of veggies and proteins. The roasted corn was a nice touch — I’ve never had that on a salad but I would try it again. I interviewed a couple of kids, and one of the salad bar regulars said they do change up the toppings; she picks what looks good on that particular day.

The salad bar is only available to the kids in 4th and 5th grades, and about half of the kids bring their lunch every day. Today, about 15 salads were sold, or roughly about 20% of the purchased lunches. I spoke to the principal and the kitchen manager, and they both agreed that when the salad bar was added in September, it was pretty popular due to the novelty — but the bloom is off the rose somewhat since then. One child I sat with regretted not getting the salad today, since she was not thrilled with the hot lunch offered. Maybe she missed out today, but at least she has the option of fresh veggies for next time.

Has your child’s school added a salad bar? What do they think of it?

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