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Celebrating Salad Bars in New Haven Schools

By Nona Evans, October 24, 2011  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Nona Evans

Since joining Whole Foods Market in 2001, Nona Evans has held various positions including Private Label Brand Development and Sr. Global Marketing Coordinator. Following her passion for children's education and health, Evans joined Whole Kids Foundation as Executive Director in May 2011. She is excited to shape this new effort to empower schools and inspire families to make good food choices for life. For many of us of a certain generation, “cabbage patch” conjures up a mental picture of a well-loved doll. But for the generation of students attending Barnard Environmental Studies Magnet School in New Haven, Connecticut, it means something completely different. Just take a look at their cabbage patch! I was lucky enough to see this cabbage patch in person earlier this month when Whole Kids Foundation helped the New Haven Public Schools officials and students celebrate the opening of 33 new salad bars in the district’s schools. Remember our Salad Bar Project fundraising campaign last year? This is the great work that your donations are funding! Although New Haven is home to the prestigious Yale University, New Haven Public Schools actually serves the largest concentration of food deserts in that part of the country. Food deserts are low-income neighborhoods with large populations and no nearby grocery stores. That means the families who live in these neighborhoods don’t have regular and easy access to fresh fruits and vegetables. It’s no wonder the kids get excited about the new seasonal selections on their schools’ salad bars. Barnard is truly an example of how school gardens, salad bars and nutrition education all work together to create a healthy future for kids! While I was there, the students recruited Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, who also attended the celebration, to learn how to harvest potatoes. They explained that they had planted the potatoes in the spring and since the plants had died back it was now time to dig them out. And that they did — beaming with pride at their harvest! The spirit behind real food in the New Haven public schools is Chef Tim Cipriano, the Executive Director of Food Service. Initially, Chef Tim thought that composed salads were the way to boost fruit and veggie consumption in his schools. Then he heard the stories of success that come from offering kids choices and the freedom to make their own salads. Following the success of a handful of school salad bars in his district, Chef Tim was ecstatic to receive the grant from Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools for 33 more! And to all the adults in the world who are certain that kids won’t eat veggies, Tim says: “Give them a chance!” Barnard Principal Michael Crocco now has a crew of 600 veggie-strong kids. They were each challenged to make a rainbow on their plate, following the idea that eating a variety of colorful foods provides a full range of nutrients that your body uses to grow and be well. The kids were not shy about tasting new things and filling their trays with seasonal selections. With courageous leadership and dedication like that in New Haven, the future looks very bright for a generation of kids who will defy the gloomy health trends reported on a daily basis. Whole Kids Foundation is certainly proud to support their efforts. If you’re interested in either donating money to help put salad bars in schools or would like to apply for grants to put salad bars in your own area schools, visit saladbars2schools.org. Also, The Lunch Box has lots of practical resources for schools seeking to implement healthier school lunches, including resources for salad bars like this downloadable Rainbow Day Packet that encourages kids to eat a rainbow. How do you inspire kids to "eat a rainbow?" We'd love to hear your tips.