(Oct. 22, PACKER WEB EXCLUSIVE) Some California elementary schools students will have more opportunities to eat produce in school, as well as learn about growing fruits and vegetables, thanks to federal grants.

The grants are part of $1.3 million in federal funds allocated to California programs, earmarked by California Department of Food and Agriculture secretary A.G. Kawamura.

The California School Nutrition Association, Burbank, through its foundation, will receive $100,000. The funds will go establish salad bars in forty elementary schools, said Lynnelle Grumbles, president of the association. The salad bars could be in operation by early next year.

“Putting a salad bar together can be done quickly once the money is available,” Grumbles said.

When the foundation receives its share of the federal grant, school districts will be invited to submit mini-grant requests. The funds will be awarded to the winning districts about Dec. 1, Grumbles said.

The goal of installing the salad bars is to increase children’s access to nutritious produce. In addition, Grumbles said the winning school districts will be required to conduct surveys to determine whether there is increased consumption of produce by the students and to measure reaction of the students’ parents to the salad bars. The findings will provide the foundation for a model for other schools, she said.

A grant of nearly $100,000 will go to the University of California at Davis’s Instructional School Garden Program, which helps establish programs for school site gardens.

“The program is aimed at giving children the exposure to vegetable production that allows them to be more willing to try produce and make it a part of their diets,” said Carol Hillhouse, a spokeswoman for the program.

The state legislature allocated $15 million to establish the school gardens, but Hillhouse said those funds may not be used for technical support. Money from the federal grant, she said will help develop training courses, curricula and an internet gardening resource.

Hillhouse estimated the state funds will result in 4,000 school gardens. Teaching of nutritional value has been shown to be more effective when coupled with garden education, she said. The U.C. Davis program will also develop evaluation tools to determine the impacts of the new state garden program.

The five-year-old California Grown program also is receiving $100,000 to boost its retail outreach.

“We have always seen the value of working with the retailers in the state to advertise California grown products in their stores,” said Maile Shanahan, a spokeswoman for California Grown.

The federal funds will permit the promotion program to develop a Web site-based program that Shanahan said is designed to reach out to all California retailers. The program’s Web site, www.californiagrown.org, will be the internet destination for retailers who will be able to download point of sale materials including recipe cards, sales flyers and posters through a password-protected page.

Shanahan said she expected construction of the additions to the Web site to be completed in the spring.

Other programs designated to share the $1.3 million include pest eradication efforts, a study on the feasibility of a “sustainability” label for wine and an initiative to sample honey bee health.