The Mix

News, stories, and tips for salad bar success.

Salad Bars: A Review

With over 5,000 salad bars granted to schools across the U.S., the Salad Bars to Schools program has been able to help schools incorporate more fresh fruits and veggies into their meal programs. But to better understand the impacts and use of these salad bars we grant, we send every district an evaluation roughly a year after they receive their salad bar(s). And as another year wraps up, we thought, what better time to look back on the successes and challenges of implementing salad bars?

Of the 5418 bars we have granted, we have collected data from 523 districts that have received a total of 3029 bars since 2013. Below are some highlights from these evaluations that demonstrate just how big of an impact salad bars can have.

  • Of the salad bars represented in this evaluation, 90% are still in use.
  • 87% of the salad bars are used five days a week, meaning students always have access to fresh produce.
  • 20% of reporting districts noted a 1-9% increase in Average Daily Participation due to Salad Bar usage, where 39% of reporting districts saw a 10-19% increase.
  • 84% of districts are sourcing at least 10% of their produce from local vendors
  • Roughly half of our salad bar respondents have seen a decrease in the amounts of canned fruits and vegetables that they purchased

Not only have salad bars impacted procurement and participation numbers in school districts. They have also helped encourage healthy eating habits among students:

  • We saw 33% of respondents note that their salad bars encouraged students to try fresh fruits and veggies.
  • School Districts noted that salad bars increased student access to fresh fruits and veggies by 31.2%
  • 21.14% of districts noted that it provided an opportunity for children to make healthy choices.

With high rates of obesity in the nation’s children, these increases are extremely important when considering our country’s future. The statistics from these evaluations show the larger importance and impact of salad bars, but each evaluation shares the story of a district and the changes they have experienced:

  • “Students are excited about eating fresh salads that they made themselves and are eating everything on their plate.  Our participation has increased, therefore our revenue has increased as well.”
  • “Students are now choosing to eat healthier food and now have the opportunity to eat healthy food provided from the school kitchen.”

There are still challenges with implementing successful salad bars in a school district and many respondents noted these in their evaluations. However, most were able to overcome the increased cost of fresh produce, increased labor time to prep produce and other challenges. We always encourage districts to check out The Lunch Box for helpful resources and tools.

If you are interested in a salad bar in your school, please head to our “Get a Salad Bar in your School” page.

Happy New Year!