Salad Bars - Action for Healthy Kids
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Salad BarIs your school looking for creative ways to get students to eat more fruits and vegetables? School salad bars give students more variety and choice and allow them to try healthy options they may not have eaten before. Better yet, salad bars can be part of a reimbursable school meal, allowing your school meal program to get reimbursed from the federal government (just like they would for a typical school meal in the lunch line). Schools have reported positive results when implementing salad bars, such as increasing participation in school meals by 57%.

Take Action

Take Action

  • Discuss your salad bar proposal with the necessary administration, such as your principal or the district’s School Nutrition Director. Do your research beforehand, and come prepared to discuss the benefits and address common concerns. Salad bars can be a complex addition to the menu and can make a large impact on scheduling and back-of-the-house processes, so approval from these stakeholders is key.
  • Get support from your School Nutrition Manager. He/she will be responsible for managing the salad bar.
  • Complete an assessment to determine assets and potential challenges relating to staffing, refrigeration, preparation and serving logistics, and produce suppliers.
  • Identify the needed equipment, new or existing, to implement the salad bar. Salad bars don’t always require new equipment if the funding is not available. You can be creative with the space you have to implement a successful salad bar. For example, if you have an existing regular serving line with cold wells, you can transform it into a salad bar.
  • Develop a clear action plan for implementation. Map out the logistics and have a detailed outline in place for all team members. Considerations may include adhering to district policies and mandates (for example, offer versus serve), production and preparation, financing the initiative, claiming meals, timetable of service and program execution.
  • Train staff on how to prepare, operate, and implement the salad bar. Focus on topics such as salad bar layout, food prep, record keeping and food safety.
  • Educate school staff on the upcoming program. It is important to let teachers, parents, and administrators know how the process operates prior to launching to ensure a seamless transition.
  • Promote the new salad bar program to students, families and staff through announcements and other marketing strategies, nutrition education, taste tests and engaging students in choosing favorite fruits and vegetables to showcase on the salad bar.

Social Emotional Health Highlights

Activities such as these help students explore…

Self-Awareness and Self-Management: Salad bars allow students to try new foods they may have not been exposed to before which in turn helps them to develop skills in self-perception and more accurately refine their likes and dislikes. A student’s perception of a certain food may change just by trying the food, teaching them

Responsible Decision-Making:

Salad bars give students a choice in what foods they select without the pressure of someone telling to do so. Offering rotating options or creating a fun and engaging school-wide activity is a way to motivate children to try new foods and make more conscious decisions about their nutrition. Students may even discover that the fruits and veggies they select make them feel more energized, refreshed, and ready to take on the rest of their day. The more opportunities that students have to make positive and informed choices regarding their own health, the better equipped they are for developing lifelong healthy habits.


Arrange salad bar items in an order to easily assemble a reimbursable meal.

Place the salad bar in a high traffic area that will grab the attention of students.

Offer special promotions to encourage students and staff to try the salad bar. Two widely used promotions include Rainbow Days and Vegetable of the Month. The Vegetable of the Month program highlights a new monthly vegetable and provides fun facts to students. If a student tries the new featured item, they receive a prize such as a sticker, bookmark, pencil, free seating, or extra recess time.

Have a taste test prior to the salad bar opening or whenever new items are offered to gain interest from students.

Offer variety to increase student participation. More variety will make it more exciting for students to build their own salad when they have many favorites and new items available.

Use larger serving utensils for the foods you want students to consume more of (e.g. lettuce) and smaller ones for those you want to limit (e.g. salad dressing)

Promote the new salad bar program to parents and families by sending flyers home with students or in newsletters, emails and texts, and invite them to come try it themselves by offering students and families a taste test with some of the new items. This will help get parents on board and let them know about healthy options their kids like that they can try at home, too!

Ask parents to get involved by volunteering to serve at the salad bar during lunch periods.

Know a parent with a green thumb? Invite them to grow and donate fruits and veggies to include in the salad bar. If they want to take even more initiative, partner with them to start a school garden so students can help grow them, too.

Reach out to local farmers, produce stands or grocery stores to ask for donations for the salad bar, and start a partnership that could benefit both them and the school.

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