UPDATED: First lady pushes for 6,000-plus school salad bars

Courtesy United Fresh Produce Association

First lady Michelle Obama and Tom Stenzel, president of United Fresh Produce Association announced a new public-private partnership, Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools, Nov. 22 at Riverside Elementary School in Miami. The effort aims to create 6,000 or more school salad bars in the next three years. Chef Ann Cooper looks on.

A campaign to put 6,000 or more salad bars in schools over the next three years was launched in Miami Nov. 22 by first lady Michelle Obama.

Obama made the announcement during a visit to Riverside Elementary School in Miami, recipient of the first salad bar under a new public-private partnership.

Partners in the campaign — Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools — include the National Fruit and Vegetable Alliance; United Fresh Produce Association Foundation; and Food, Family, Farming (F3) Foundation. The alliance is co-chaired by Produce for Better Health Foundation and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The effort succeeds the United Fresh Foundation’s A Salad Bar in Every School campaign, launched in February. Through the end of September, that campaign placed 50 salad bars in mostly urban school districts nationwide.

“Our legacy program just folds into this,” Ray Gilmer, vice president of communications at United Fresh, said of the Obama initiative.

“The prior program was a school-by-school donation effort,” he said. “We hoped to see this coalition come together and take it to the next level. We couldn’t be more thrilled to have Mrs. Obama involved. This works toward her goal of fighting childhood obesity, and raises the visibility and credibility of our program. We feel confident we’ll be able to go out and raise a lot of money.”

Produce for Better Health will focus more on publicity than fundraising, PBH communications specialist Jill LeBrasseur said.

“It’s a wonderful way to bring the attention of consumers and industry members to the huge problem in our country of childhood obesity,” LeBrasseur said. “Instead of just continuing to say this is a problem, Let’s Move is offering a concrete solution and asking people to become a part of that. Anyone who cares about the health of our youth can get involved.”

So far, funds have been raised for more than 600 new school salad bars. The cost is about $2,500 per unit, Gilmer said.
Schools have two ways to obtain salad bars under Let’s Move. Online at www.saladbars2schools.org, they can create a donation program for their supporters to contribute to, or they can apply for a grant. Donors can also visit the site.

“It’s gaining traction with schools and their local donors,” Gilmer said. “We don’t want to ignore that, but this is a broad, nationwide effort that will attract donors across the country regardless of community.”

Grant applications will start being processed in January, he said. Any school in the National School Lunch program can apply for a grant, but those with the bronze status or above in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Healthier US School Challenge program www.fns.usda.gov/tn/healthierus/index.html will get priority, Gilmer said.

Federally supported school meal programs serve about 31 million children.