(April 5) Chosen from more than 100 schools that applied, five U.S. elementary schools were awarded $15,000 grants by the maker of Hidden Valley ranch dressings to support programs that boost access and consumption of fresh vegetables.

Hidden Valley representatives were on hand April 3 in Jewell, Iowa, to present a fully stocked “veggie bar” to the officials of the South Hamilton School District.

The grant provides $15,000 during the 2007-08 school year for fruits and vegetables during the elementary school’s lunch hour. The school also receives free salad dressing.

“I was happy to have the opportunity to feature vegetables because the kids seem to prefer fruit over veggies, and the little cups of low fat ranch may encourage students to try some vegetables,” said Candy Anderson, foodservice director for the district.

Hidden Valley created the “Love Your Veggies Nationwide School Lunch Campaign” based on findings from a recent study with two Northern California elementary schools conducted by University of California at Davis and the EFNEP Butte County Cooperative Extension, a news release said. One significant finding from the study was that children consumed 23% more vegetables when paired with a moderate amount of ranch dressing.

The district’s elementary and high school have participated in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s fruit and vegetable program for three years. The Hidden Valley grant applies only to the elementary school, Anderson said.

Winners were chosen on the basis of creativity, sustainability, and overall student and faculty participation in the program, according to the Oakland, Calif.-based company.

Two second graders at South Hamilton Elementary in Jewell, Iowa, look over their new salad bar, awarded to the school by the makers of Hidden Valley ranch dressings as part of the Love Your Veggies Nationwide School Lunch Campaign. South Hamilton was one of five elementary schools that received the $15,000 grant.