Whole Foods Market Putting Salad Bars in Schools

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According to a 2009 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 1 percent of adolescents ate as many servings of fruit and vegetables as recommended by the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. It sounds shocking, but then again, I'm fairly certain I could stand to eat a piece of lettuce or two now and then. The difference is, I have a choice. As we reported last week, more than 70 percent of students enrolled in HISD's breakfast and lunch program eat for free or at a reduced rate due to economic hardship, making the meals they get at school their primary source of nutrition for the better part of the year.

Statistics like these, and new stricter federal regulations on food in schools, have spurred a nationwide movement to clean up the lunch line. Today Austin-based Whole Foods Market jumped on the bandwagon, announced it will be awarding more than 500 free salad bars in schools across the United States through the Salad Bar Project, "a campaign created to help empower schools to increase their students' lunchtime consumption of fruits and vegetables."

This feat was made possible through partnership with F3: Food Family Farming Foundation, and a four-week fundraising campaign in September of 2010. Whole Foods shoppers blew the initial goal of $750,000 dollars out of the water, donating more than $1.4 million through in-store and online channels. On the community response, Whole Foods co-CEO Walter Robb said, "We were blown away by the generosity of our shoppers. We nearly doubled the number of schools we had originally expected to support. With such a robust amount of funds raised, we are thrilled to be able to offer a salad bar to every school that qualified and are proud to support the courageous efforts of schools that want to provide kids in our communities more fresh healthy options in the lunchroom."

F3 received more than 700 applications and has scheduled shipment of 460 five-well Cambro® salad bars (complete with utensils, pan inserts, chilling pads and training tools), and is finalizing the review of 90 additional qualifying schools. For a list of schools scheduled to receive salad bars, visit saladbars2schools.org. In addition, Whole Foods Market is a founding partner of Let's Move Salad Bars to Schools, a non-profit aiming to provide 6,000 salad bars across the nation by 2013.

Sure, it's hard to get kids to eat healthy, but it's damn near impossible if they lack the education or resources to do so. While all of the approved locations in Texas are still awaiting equipment, schools in other regions of the country are yielding positive results. According to Jamie Smith, manager of food services for Santa Cruise City Schools, "'Taco salad bar' and 'make your own veggie pita' [are] some of our most popular days."

Qualifying Applicants in the Houston Area:

Raul Yzaguirre School for Success 2950 Broadway Houston, TX 77017

YES Prep Southeast 353 Crenshaw Houston, TX 77034

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