Sunday, September 16, 2012

Campus Salad Bars Get Makeover With Locally Grown Produce

San Diego Unified is celebrating a decade of salad bars in its schools and this year students are seeing a reorganized salad bar with more seasonal fresh fruit, local fruit and vegetables and even occasional items grown right at school.

Students also have three new "grab and go" salads that feature locally baked bread. One selection, Asian Tofu Salad, features tofu from the San Diego Soy Dairy.

It's meant the end of croutons and chips, but Vanessa Zajfen, San Diego Unified's Farm to School Coordinator, says bringing local produce to school -- and even produce grown at school -- means healthier kids and a better environment for all.

"The salad bars are our the best way to deliver farm-fresh healthy foods to our students," she said. "Our students love that there's always a fresh option, whether they're in kindergarten or a high school senior."

The nationally recognized food service program spends 15 percent of its annual fresh fruit and vegetable on locally grown crops, working with farmers to grow fields of vegetables for San Diego's kids.

"It's might be 25 miles or less from the farmer to our kids," said Gary Petill, Food Services Director. "That makes the food fresher, reduces the amount of pollution in transportation and really makes a connection between the local rancher and kids in a nearby neighborhood."

San Diego Unified first put salad bars in elementary schools in 2002, becoming a pioneer in giving kids a chance to learn on their own how to make good nutritional choices. In 2009, a major makeover in the high school menu produced a doubling of sales at some schools. It has also pioneered breakfast in the classroom for elementary school students. This year, the menu was adjusted to meet tough new federal nutrition guidelines.

Each day, the San Diego Unified School District prepares and serves nearly 150,000 meals to its students. For more information, contact Zajfen at