How to Get Students to Actually Enjoy Eating Healthy Foods


Fruits and vegetables are often treated like foods you need to eat, but more and more schools are trying to show students how they can be foods you want to eat. Research shows that when students are more likely to eat fresh fruit and vegetables if they are presented in a salad bar during lunch. While kids can certainly be picky eaters, oftentimes they are picky because they aren’t exposed to enough options. When kids are offered healthy choices, they’re more likely to try new foods and increase the number of fruits and vegetables they eat each day.

The Impact of the Salad Bar

“It’s always been my dream, since 2016 when I took over as the director, to have salad bars in the schools,” said Warren DeShields, Director of Food Services at Bridgeton Public Schools in Bridgeton, New Jersey. “The Common Market

was willing to give us $25,000 to do whatever we wanted to do to incentivize schools to buy local and do healthy things with it.”

DeShields used some of his funds to purchase new Cambro Versa Food Bars.

“I’ve been a chef since 1993, and I’ve always used Cambro. Cambro is easy, it’s portable, it’s lightweight and the functionality of it, to me, is something that has always been great,” said DeShields. “One of the things that we like when you go out and look at the salad bar, its pleasing to the eye. It makes you want to go there and use it.”

Each salad bar is stocked with foods like cucumbers, carrots, blueberries, radishes and strawberries for the students to choose from.

“We had a site visit from one of our local legislators and also our department of agriculture and they came in and they were astounded to see the kids running to the salad bar and not the pizza that was on the hot line,” said DeShields. “A mass of kids just came and swelled at the salad bar and they were like, ‘Oh my goodness, that’s crazy!”

How to Get Students Excited About Your Salad Bar

To help educate the students about nutrition and new foods they might not have seen before, Jenny Reed, a school nutrition service member with FoodCorps

, joined DeShield’s team. Reed taught the students hands-on lessons about cooking and gardening and offered tastings to help expose them to different colors, textures and flavors.

“We wanted to do lessons with the kids to teach them how to use the salad bar, the ethics behind it, and then really, how to eat healthy from a salad bar. One of the lessons that she did was how to eat the rainbow…kids are loving the local fruit that we have on the salad bar,” said DeShields.

“There are a lot of items the students haven’t tried yet. I made a kale berry salad, a lot of them didn’t know what kale was. Overall, they’ve been really receptive to it and really excited, I think it’s a cool extra item,” said Reed.

“I made Butternut Squash Smiles, which is butternut squash with honey and I put little raisin eyes. I had first come up with the idea for preschool kids, which I did do it with them, but I also gave it to the high schoolers and I was surprised at how many tried it and how many liked it; I thought maybe it would be a little too young for them but they actually really enjoyed it as well.”

DeShields generated excitement among the students at his schools by asking Reed to teach a few lessons before they officially opened up the salad bars.

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