More than 31 million children eat a federally funded school lunch and most of it's junk. Hamburgers, French fries, chocolate milk and corn dogs are typical offerings. Whole Foods Market and Chef Ann Cooper, (aka "Renegade Lunch Lady") are fighting back with the Salad Bar Project.
"With childhood obesity levels at an all-time high, everyone has a stake in this fight and must take action to help change the way our children eat both at home and school," said Walter Robb, co-chief executive officer for Whole Foods Market. "Our goal is to provide a salad bar in a local school in each of the communities we serve with our 300 stores." On average, children are eating mostly frozen, highly processed, packaged foods.
From now until Sept. 29, shoppers may donate to the project at the check-out or make a donation online through saladbarproject.org. Each salad bar kit costs approximately $2,500 dollars, and includes a Cambro portable 5-well salad bar unit with all the necessary insert pans, cutting boards, knives and shipping costs. Salad bar training tools and videos for school nutrition staff will also be available through TheLunchBox.org, which Whole Foods Market shoppers helped to raise funds to build last year so all schools can have access to tools for healthier food.
Any public elementary, middle or high school within 50 miles of a Whole Foods Market is eligible to apply with the support of the school principal, nutrition service director and the superintendent of the district. The online application and full criteria is available at saladbarproject.org. Grant applications will be accepted between Sept. 1 and Nov. 1. Applicants chosen based on the grant criteria and the level of the school's commitment to sustaining the salad bar will be announced in early January 2011.
"The time is ripe for 31 million children. They deserve a solution and this Salad Bar Project is just that. I know we can make thousands of salad bars a reality for schools everywhere. Since adding a healthy salad bar to school lunch options is the number one thing parents and advocates can do to help improve school food, this is a win-win for schools and their students," said Chef Ann Cooper.
Last week, the U.S. Senate passed its version of the Child Nutrition Act that would make changes to the types of foods that can be sold in schools. The House of Representatives now needs to pass its version of the bill in time for President Obama to sign the legislation before Sept. 30, when the current Act expires. Failing to do so puts the new funding and other policy changes in jeopardy. For more information on the bill go here.
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