When most people think about students’ favorite lunches, they think of the standards – pizza, hamburgers, mac and cheese. But the introduction of salad bars at school cafeterias across the district is challenging the notion of what students enjoy eating.
Last year, the Houston Independent School District’s Nutrition Services department introduced salad bars as a standard option at more than 20 elementary schools. The pilot program was a first for elementary schools and proved so successful that salads made up more than half the meals served on the first day.
This year, Nutrition Services is taking it a step further. Salad bars have been implemented across all grade levels at 241 campuses, with remaining campuses set to offer salad bars by the spring.
“Our department is focused on providing ‘good food’ to fuel our students’ learning. Good food is fresh, colorful and nutritious,” HISD Nutrition Services Officer Betti Wiggins said. “The salad bars provide that in a tasty way for our students.”
Each salad bar is equipped with the lettuce or spinach base, a meat option and a variety of toppings ranging from carrots to pinto beans. Properly portioned servings of salad dressings are served to top off the customized salads.
“I like it. I like the broccoli. It helps me to grow, and I want to be healthy,” said Seguin Elementary School fifth-grader Kattie Rivera, who likes to add fruit to her salad for an extra flavor boost.
According to Wiggins, the success of the salad bars supports the department’s food literacy efforts, which teach students about the value of healthy eating. At the elementary school level, salad bars expose students to healthy food and flavors at an early age. For older students, their presence helps reinforce the tenants of healthy eating.
At Tijerina Elementary School, Principal Alesander Olaizola said the lunch option has been well received, with about 100 students selecting a salad each day.
“The salad bar is going great and the students love it,” Olaizola said.