GALT, CA - In the produce industry, it’s not every day you get to see the real impact of the year’s hard work on the children we aim to serve. So, when the United Fresh Start Foundation invited some of the supporters of this year’s Tour de Fresh to see firsthand the effects of their 300-mile bike ride and the Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools initiative, it’s not surprising that several jumped at the chance.
Last Tuesday, December 6, the Galt Elementary School District in California hosted produce industry salad bar donors and myself at both the River Oaks and Valley Oaks Elementary Schools. We were able to meet directly with the foodservice administrators responsible for implementing the six donated salad bars, and even better, in my opinion—seeing elementary school kids actually clamoring to eat their fruits and veggies!
“I’m so happy to have been able to attend the Salad Bar visit and see first-hand how receptive the children were to the fruits and vegetables,” Allen Satterlee, Customer Service Manager for Vegetable Seed Sales, Sakata Seed America, Inc., told me when I asked him about his experience at the event. “The Salad Bars are such a great tool to bring healthy choices to the children. The fresh fruits and vegetables that the children grow to like in school will trickle into their households and community. This experience has made me look back and appreciate so much more the 3-day 300 mile bicycle Tour de Fresh I participated. Sakata Seed America employees, friends and family raised funds to help get these bars into the schools and allowed me to go the distance. Thanks to the United Fresh Produce Association for this wonderful program.”
Allen, Adam Linder of CHEP, and Katie Van Camp of Renaissance Food Group were all riders that supported the schools’ salad bars, and Kelly O’Halloran from Bayer was also on hand to show her support for the foundation’s hard work. Also in attendance at the event were Jan Burkett and Lupe Brunone from FreshPoint–Central California, the school district’s produce distributor.
“Visiting the schools, seeing students select fruits and vegetables from the salad bars and talking with students and school officials about how much the children enjoy eating fresh produce was a very rewarding and educational experience,” said Linder, CHEP USA’s Strategic Account Manager for Produce.
I also spoke with Galt Elementary School District’s Food Service Supervisor, Nick Svoboda, who explained that exposing students of families with less financial income to fresh fruits and vegetables at school is an excellent way to get them to make healthier choices.
“The salad bar donation is an outstanding upgrade for our School Nutrition program. The new salad bars will be marketed as 'Garden Bars' and will be utilized with 3 purposes,” Svoboda said. “One, bringing fresh fruit and vegetable choices to the students in an appetizing and appealing presentation. Second, as a tool to expose students to new and unique choices they may not have the opportunity to experience at home. Third, as a tool to engage students in making a healthy difference in their families food choices. In hopes if a student tries a new to them fruit or veggie choice on our Garden Bar and likes it. In turn, when at the market with their family, the student will request the parents to purchase these healthy choices.”
Jenny Maloney, Bayer’s Food Chain Sustainability Manager, commented on her company’s efforts to support the salad bar donation as well, sharing, “Bayer is committed to supporting salad bars for schools as a strategy for increasing children’s access and consumption of healthy, fresh produce. Our support for the Galt District dovetails with our support for the United Fresh Start Foundation and their mission of increasing children’s access to fresh produce. We are especially pleased to support schools in an agricultural community, like Galt.”
The United Fresh Start Foundation is a founding partner of the national Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools initiative, which to date has donated salad bars to over 4,800 schools in all fifty states, according to a press release. The Foundation has been working tirelessly with the produce industry, healthcare organizations, non-profits, and allied businesses to support salad bars for schools as a way to increase children’s access to and consumption of fresh fruits and veggies every day at school.
“We always appreciate the opportunity to connect produce industry members with schools receiving salad bar donations,” added Andrew Marshall, Director of Foundation Programs & Partnerships, United Fresh Start Foundation. “This week’s event was a true example of the Foundation bringing folks together for a common cause, supporting schools in their efforts to provide children with greater access to a variety of fresh produce choices.”
A big thank you to the United Fresh Start Foundation, the Galt School District, and everyone involved for allowing me to learn more about this awesome program, and for letting me hang out with some very fun, very veggie-hungry kiddos!