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Riverside Unified School District Farmers’ Market Salad Bar Program

Evidence Summary

Underlying Logic: This intervention is guided by a detailed logic model that specifies intended audience, program components, activities, and objectives.

Strategies Used1The Riverside Unified School District (RUSD) Farm to School Program applies the following evidence-based strategy for healthy eating:

Research Findings or Evaluation Outcomes:  The RUSD Farm to School Program was developed and evaluated in the field as a practice-based intervention. 

The program has been evaluated in two separate studies. The Center for Food and Justice, in collaboration with RUSD’s Nutrition Services, conducted an evaluation in 2005. Using data collected from one school, this evaluation tracked the number of students (pre- and post-salad bar implementation) who chose a hot meal versus the salad bar and the number of students and teachers who bought lunch. The evaluation also tracked the amount of fruits and vegetables consumed by those who chose a hot meal versus those who chose the salad bar (data collected only at post-salad bar implementation). During that same year (2005), this evaluation collected data from two additional schools that assessed the program’s effects on knowledge, awareness, and preference for specific fruits and vegetables. 

In 2008-2009, the Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill conducted an evaluation of the salad bar component of the program. Data were collected from four schools that received the salad bar during the 2008-2009 school year and were compared to data collected from two comparison schools that were to receive the salad bar during the following school year. Data were collected directly from students on the amount of fruits and vegetables consumed at lunch at the beginning and end of the school year. This evaluation also looked at school food service revenue and costs both before and after the program’s implementation.

In the 2005 evaluation, students eating at the salad bar ate an average of 2.36 servings of fruits and vegetables for lunch compared to 1.49 servings for those students who ate from the hot bar. This evaluation also found modest increases in students’ knowledge, awareness, and preferences for a variety of locally grown fruits and vegetables.

The 2008-2009 evaluation found no increase in fruit and vegetable consumption overall among students in schools that received the salad bar during that school year compared to students in comparison schools. However, the evaluation results showed that children who chose the salad bar significantly increased consumption of fruits and vegetables at lunch by half a serving. The 2008-2009 evaluation also found that food costs were no greater in the salad bar schools compared to the comparison schools. The evaluation found a slight increase in labor hours per meal for schools implementing the salad bar. Both evaluations found that the program generates revenue for small farmers.

1 A full description of the intervention strategies used can be found here with references to the sources of evidence to support the strategies.