Program Success for Wyoming School District
Salad bar program offers fresh fruit & veggies for students, teachers, and parents alike
“You cannot teach a hungry child.”
These were the words that Salad Bars To Schools grantee Dawndrea Daly offered when asked why school food is important. Without hesitation or pause to choose her words, the answer was clear, and we agree.
“In our community,” she added, “this is sometimes the only meal they get. I don’t know if that’s enough, but that is what I believe.”
The Salad Bar To Schools program has been transformative in Guernsey, Wyoming's Platte County School District #2. Daly, the school's former head cook and current Food Service Director, is responsible for the meal program's implementation, which began in March 2018.
Since then, according to Daly, the salad bar has been a huge success, and she’s got plenty of people to back her up.
“Our kids love it!” she exclaimed. While all students at the K-12 school access the new salad bar, it’s the elementary students who truly light up. They surprised Daly with adventurous appetites and willing palettes. Black olives, avocados, and tomatoes are among the most popular salad bar toppings.
Daly and her team have set up the salad bar at the end of the cafeteria next to the milk cooler so that, after getting their hot meal, students can help themselves to fresh fruits and vegetables off the bar.
"They always stop at the salad bar and get what they want,” Daly explained of the students. “They utilize it every day.”
36% of students in Guernsey’s Platte County District qualify for free and reduced lunch, and of those who don’t qualify, only about 25% bring lunches from home. Since moving away from processed food and towards a 90% scratch cook operation, Daly shared, the majority of students eat school lunch.
It’s not only students, though, who are reaping the benefits of this healthy lunch option. Teachers and parents use the salad bar too. Many teachers take advantage of the option to buy a large salad for lunch. In addition, Daly extends regular invitations to parents to join for lunch.
Implementing the salad bar program has been no small feat, with Daily and staff working in additional prep time to wash the fruits and vegetables each day. The results, however, are worth the effort.
Daly’s goal is that every child has a filling lunchtime meal that tastes good. Under her watch, every child gets fed and no child is denied food for having a delinquent account.
The school is fortunate to have a strong relationship with a local church, which donated $2,000 to cover the cost of any unpaid balances.
“It’s a great community,” Daly explained. “The church came to me and offered the donation.”
Now that the program is up and running, Daly wants to do even more. The greatest benefit of offering a salad bar in schools is the increased access to fruits and vegetables for children at meal time, but the work doesn’t stop there.
In May, she will oversee the installation of a geo-dome that will enable students to grow some of the vegetables and herbs they see in the salad bar every day. Looking ahead, Daly also hopes to incorporate gardening knowledge into math and science classes.
Until then, her focus is on sharing her gratitude for the program and spreading the word. “I talk about it constantly,” Daly said, “to share the benefits we’ve seen here to other schools, too.”
Georgina Rupp is a freelance writer based in Denver, Colorado. Inspired to pursue writing by her appreciation for the community that gathers around good food, she comes to the Chef Ann team after three years teaching in public education. When she wasn't in the classroom, she spent her afternoons in the cafeteria kitchen alongside students who gained joy and inspiration from cooking nutritious meals. Georgina received her B.A. in Writing from Johns Hopkins University.
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