Making Salad Bars Fit your Operations
A look at placing salad bars in alternate locations along the serving line
By: Jeremy West, SNS
The Salad Bars to Schools partnership truly believes that salad bars are the best option for offering a variety of fresh produce for students at school. They are visually appealing and make it easy for school food operators to meet the weekly vegetable subgroup requirements. Many operators want to add a salad bar to their serving line but are limited in available space to incorporate it before the point of sale (POS) and thus ensure students are taking a meal that qualifies for reimbursement from USDA. Here are some ideas for offering a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables no matter where the salad bar is placed.
- Reroute the Serving Line: Who says the salad bar has to be the last thing students encounter when building their tray? Why not locate the salad bar before the serving line to encourage students to build their meals around fresh fruits and veggies? Some monitoring for food safety purposes will need to be in place, but concerns about reimbursement are easily eliminated.
- Move the Point of Sale: When implementing salad bars district-wide a number of years ago, the Nutrition team at Greeley-Evans School District 6 in Colorado found that space was tight in several of the kitchen spaces; however, the cafeteria had ample space to accommodate a salad bar. By adding a cashier stand at the end of the salad bar, students were able to walk a short distance from the serving line to the salad bar to complete their meal.
- Salad Bar Attendants: Several districts have been successful in partnering with their parent volunteer organizations, or non-foodservice district staff (I.e. Para professionals or Custodians) to provide individuals that monitor the salad bar when it’s not in the line of sight for the cashier or is past the POS. In order to make this successful, training must be provided by the Nutrition Services team to ensure that individuals understand the regulations and food safety considerations.
- Modifying Existing Equipment: If you have custom-fabricated (non-mobile) serving lines, as a last resort, when there is absolutely no space to place a physical salad bar unit before the POS, try creating the look of a salad bar on the serving line. By using food wells converted for cold service, arrange your fresh fruit and vegetable offerings in pans that allow for students to self-serve a variety of offerings and create a reimbursable tray. Or if you have solid top counter space not being utilized, invest in an insulated or electric countertop salad bar unit with sneeze guards to complete the look and maintain health department compliance.
A good practice is for all cashiers to keep ½ cup servings of fruits and vegetables (whole unwrapped, wrapped or packaged as required by your local health department) at the POS in case a student reaches them without this required component or for those students who notoriously try to skip the salad bar.
Oh, and while you’re at it, don’t forget to give the offerings on your salad bars a fun name! It’s been proven to raise vegetable consumption when they are given a taste focused name such as “Asian Sesame-glazed Edamame” For ideas, check out Stanford University’s Edgy Veggies Toolkit.
So get creative – don’t let space be the deciding factor when considering whether or not to include a salad bar in your school serving line. The increased consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables by students and the ability for them to be able to create a fully reimbursable meal from fresh healthy options is worth the extra effort to rethink your space and retrain the students who, let’s be honest, will have it mastered within two weeks!
Have any other strategies worked for you? Let us know by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.