USA Pears showed school foodservice operators how to fill salad bars with inspiration at the School Nutrition Association conference in Nashville, Tenn., in July.

“We set up a salad bar as a fun, interactive way to show all the great things schools can do with pears,” said Cristie Mather, director of communications for Pear Bureau Northwest, Milwaukie, Ore. 

Participants helped themselves to pears sliced into french fry shapes and wedges or cut into balls and chunks and threaded on grab-and-go skewers for dipping.

Rainbow sprinkles, cinnamon sugar and granola were also available for dipping, Mather said.

For a savory snack, pears were paired with cheese cubes, crackers and luncheon meats.

“Some people took photos so they could remember how we set up our bar,” Mather said.

“My favorite moment was hearing a foodservice director say he’s definitely going to bring fresh pears into his school salad bars.”

Johnson and Wales nutrition professor Amy Kweller told participants that children are more likely to eat fruit that’s cut, and even more likely to eat cut fruit when they can dip it or pair it with other familiar foods such as yogurt, peanut butter and granola.

Foodservice staff also learned how to ripen pears properly to their peak sweetness and prevent browning on cut pears.

The pear bureau will advertise on again this fall, Mather said.

School districts upload their menus to the site so parents can check out what their child will be eating in school.

Since last October, the site has referred more than 1,800 visitors to the bureau’s website, Mather said.

“We’re reaching the right people,” she said.

Another effective partnership is with the Cool School Cafe loyalty program, Mather said.

For each case of pears purchased, a school gets 25 points. Schools collect points and turn them into things they need, from equipment to healthy eating materials.

“By looking at the monthly points redemption, we can measure how many schools are using pears and find out the top districts so we can contact them,” she said.

To promote particular varieties, such as red anjou, the bureau can increase the point value on a case of that variety to encourage sales.