Salad bars in schools — only a great idea if the kids eat the salad
The US Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools initiative has resulted in around 4800 public schools around the country installing salad bars. About 50% of high school students, 39% of middle school kids and 31% of elementary school children now have access to salad bars at schools. But not all the students are rushing to eat the salads.
Lori Spruance, a Brigham Young University researcher, has found that teens are more likely to use salad bars if they’re exposed to good old-fashioned marketing. Students at schools with higher salad bar marketing are nearly three times as likely to use them.
Spruance’s study, published in Health Education and Behavior, followed the salad bar usage of students in 12 public schools in New Orleans. Spruance and co-authors from Tulane University administered surveys to the students and tracked the school environment through personal visits.
Not only did they find better marketing improved salad bar usage among secondary school students, they also found female students use salad bars more often than male students and children who prefer healthy foods use them more frequently.
“The value of a salad bar program depends on whether students actually use the salad bar,” Spruance said. “But few studies have examined how to make that happen more effectively.”
Some examples of successful salad bar marketing efforts included signage throughout the school promoting the salad bar, information in school publications and newsletters, and plugs for the salad bar on a school’s digital presence.
Spruance suggests that schools engage parents in their efforts to improve the school food environment, such as reaching out through newsletters or parent-teacher conferences. Of course, she says, offering healthy options at home makes the biggest difference.
Spruance’s research builds on previous studies that show students are more likely to use salad bars if they are included in the normal serving line.
There have now been 2,401,500 kids served from salad bars in public schools across the US.
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