Students at Cornerstone Charter Health High School in Detroit visit the salad bar at lunch. Courtesy Meijer
If youth obesity is the problem, is a school salad bar the answer?
In order to offer Midwest students a healthier option at lunch, Grand Rapids-based Meijer and Dole Food Company in California, one the largest producers of fresh fruit and vegetables, have partnered to install five salad bars at three public schools: Cornerstone Charter High School in Detroit; South Bend Community School Corp. in South Bend, Ind. and Dohn Community High School in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Christina Fecher, a Meijer spokesperson, said she doesn’t believe Meijer has plans to install salad bars in any West Michigan high schools.
One in three Midwest children ages 9 to 11 is overweight or at risk for being overweight, said Bil Goldfield, a Dole spokesperson.
“We need to look at whole new ways to encourage healthier eating,” Goldfield said. “One of Dole’s goals is to start the nutrition conversation and offer tangible healthy alternatives, as early in childhood as possible. We are hopefully establishing healthier eating habits that will last a lifetime.”
The salad bars are an attempt by Meijer to “really impact the lives of students, by making healthy food options readily available at school,” said Brian Coates, a Meijer senior produce buyer.
Meijer and Dole are not stocking the salad bars, Fecher said.
The salad bars have offered, for instance, lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, cucumbers, cheese, dried fruit and croutons.
Salad bar campaign
Meijer and Dole said the salad bars are part of a national trend to meet new U.S. Department of Agriculture nutrition standards for school lunches, by offering healthy options for students through salad bars.
The donated salad bars were developed through a partnership with the United Fresh Foundation, a nonprofit working to make affordable fresh fruits and vegetables available to the public.
The salad bars support the foundation's Let’s Move Salad Bars to Midwest Schools campaign.
So far, Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools has donated salad bars to more than 2,800 schools in the country.
The salad bars by Meijer and Dole will ensure those students “will have access to more fresh produce and healthier options at lunch,” said Tom Stenzel, president and CEO of the United Fresh Produce Association. “Salad bars empower students to make healthy choices and get kids excited to eat their fruits and veggies at school and beyond.”