Underlying Logic: This intervention is guided by a detailed logic model that specifies intended audience, program components, activities, and objectives.
Strategies Used1: The Riverside Unified School District (RUSD) Farm to School Program applies the following evidence-based strategy for healthy eating:
- School nutrition programs to promote healthy eating – the Farm to School Program at RUSD worked with a variety of stakeholders to shift the food environment in their schools in order to encourage healthy eating.
- Changing access and availability to favor healthy foods and beverages – offering a salad bar as an alternative or addition to school lunch everyday increased the access and availability to fresh fruits and vegetables for everyone in the school, not just for the students.
- Increasing purchasing and use of foods from local farms – Farm to School helps facilitate the acquisition and integration of foods from local farms into RUSD’s daily menu.
- Social support for healthy eating – programs such as Harvest of the Month and Cooking Carts encourage collaboration around healthy eating.
- Food and beverage marketing to favor healthy foods and beverages– promotion activities, such as components of Harvest of the Month and the Monthly Family Newsletter market healthy food and beverage choices.
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.