During the 2002-2003 school year, 4th and 5th grade students from Shirley Rominger Intermediate school took part in a pilot salad bar project in Winters, a town of 6,000 located in California's Central Valley. This pilot project was supported by UC Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program and the Center for Ecoliteracy's "Fertile Crescent Network". Produce was purchased from local farmers such as Terra Firma Farms in Winters, Good Humus in Capay Valley, Stenzel's Kiwi Farm in Gridley, Ahmad Farm and Vega Farm. The food service director, Christine Dutton, made good use of the Davis Farmers Market, not only buying produce at the market, but getting to know the farmers and establishing a connection with them.
A UC SAREP grant funded the first year of the salad bar project. WJUSD also received a three-year Kellogg grant for its farm-to-school program. The initial seed money enabled the school district to buy equipment and cover all start up costs. WJUSD purchased a salad bar, a child's sized salad bar created for smaller kids, salad bar inserts, utensils, a big lettuce spinner to help wash the large amount of lettuce received from local farms, cutting boards, knifes and other accessories that accompany fresh food. The long term sustainability of the Winters program will depend on lowering the cost per meal, the food service staff are looking for ways to do this so that the salad bar will be available to even more students in the future.
During the pilot phase, a full-service salad bar (no hot entree) was offered one day per week. The popularity of the salad bar day at Shirley Rominger has continued to grow since its inception in January, 2003. The number of students choosing salad bar is greater than most of the other hot entrees the District offers, and only slightly trails the popular pizza day. Lunch counts on salad bar days averaged 195 students buying lunch, compared to a count of 180 for other hot lunches.
WJUSD Salad Bar Coordinator, Christine Dutton also works with teachers to ensure that an educational component accompanies the salad bar. Together with the students in the classroom, they try new fruits and vegetables through taste test demonstrations and talk about the food's nutritional value. These activities help solidify the message that the salad bar is a healthy and fun option for the kids. Shirly Rominger School has also augmented their experience through a partnership with the Wolfskill Continuation High School. The high school students participated in a one acre garden project and were able to sell their produce to the Rominger school lunch program. The high school students also planned and conducted farm tours to the 5th grade classes of Shirley Rominger School.
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