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Riverside Unified School District Farmers’ Market Salad Bar Program

Core Elements

This section outlines the aspects of an intervention that are central to its theory and logic and that are thought to be responsible for the intervention’s effectiveness.  Core elements are critical features of the intervention’s intent and design and should be kept intact when the intervention is implemented or adapted. 

  1. Create support for the program from the school board, the school administration, teachers, parents, PTAs, PTOs, nutrition services staff, and other stakeholders through meetings, salad bar demonstrations, and taste tests. It is important to gain this support for approval to implement the program, to increase acceptance and build awareness, and to build partnerships for future involvement.

  2. Identify and recruit local farmers to provide fresh produce for the salad bar. Farmers can be identified by your local farmers’ market manager. Establishing relationships with local farmers who are able and willing to sell directly to schools is critical to ensure a supply of locally grown food.

  3. Train school food service staff members to set up, prepare foods, order foods, document usage, monitor, and take down the salad bar. For the salad bar to run efficiently, school food service staff will need to be trained on how to prepare fresh foods for the salad bar, how to set up the salad bar in the cafeteria, how to monitor students as they go through the salad bar to ensure each student takes the required amounts of fruits, vegetables, and protein, and how to take down the salad bar and appropriately dispose of or save leftover foods.

  4. Conduct promotional activities (for example, a grand opening, family night, taste tests, “Eat Lunch with Your Child Day,” and newsletters). These activities stimulate interest in the program from students, teachers, and parents. Students are given the opportunity to try the salad bar without any costs and to try new fruits and vegetables. These activities create awareness and excitement about the program.

  5. Provide daily salad bar to all students as a school lunch meal alternative.

  6. Monitor the salad bar for compliance with the National School Lunch Program requirements for fruits, vegetables, and protein.

  7. Educate students about nutrition and the growing of local food (for example, food safety lessons, the Harvest of the Month program, farmer visits, taste tests, cooking carts, farm field trips, and school gardens). Ideally, the salad bar provides students the opportunity to practice healthy eating habits that they are learning in the program’s educational components. The educational components generate interest, stimulate learning, and provide the context for healthy eating behaviors.

  8. Work to ensure a revenue-neutral program through inventory control, ordering control, and cost control. For example, incorporating the use of some commodities received from the federal government drastically reduces the cost of certain items (e.g., proteins) that can offset the higher cost of fruits and vegetables purchased from farmers. Additionally, waste management decreases with the implementation of the salad bars, resulting in a lower food cost per student and contributes to offsetting the additional labor cost required to oversee the salad bar. Working with local farmers on the cost of seasonal produce and creating a rotational menu and daily meal count will also help to ensure a revenue-neutral program. A major contributor to the long-term sustainability of the program is that it changes perceptions of the nutrition program by students, staff, and parents, resulting in greater trust and increased participation, which leads to greater revenues.