This week, the National Potato Council and United Fresh Start Foundation joined students, teachers and school administrators at Lemon Road Elementary School in Falls Church, VA for a “Celebration of Potatoes” lunchtime event. Kindergarten students learned how and where potatoes are grown, about different varieties, as well as potato nutrition benefits. All students also enjoyed a Greek-inspired potato salad from the school’s new salad bar.
“Potatoes are highly nutritious cost-effective vegetables that kids love to eat. Salad bars empower schools to offer healthy potato options that meet all K-12 school foodservice guidelines,” said Kam Quarles, Vice President, Public Policy, National Potato Council. “We are proud to help Fairfax schools achieve their nutrition goals by introducing kids to new ways of enjoying potatoes,” added Quarles.
Earlier this year, the National Potato Council partnered with the United Fresh Start Foundation to provide three salad bars to the Fairfax County Public Schools, as part of the national Salad Bars to Schools initiative. The donations also are part of a larger, multi-year potato industry campaign, which, over the past three years, has provided salad bars to more than 300 schools across the country. Recipient schools receive salad bars along with potato recipes, serving suggestions and other materials to assist K-12 school foodservice operators with incorporating potatoes on their menu.
“The potato industry has been a valuable partner in helping to provide salad bars to schools across the country,” said Andrew Marshall, United Fresh’s Director of Foodservice & Foundation Partnerships, representing the United Fresh Start Foundation. “The generosity of potato growers, and the forethought of the potato industry to educate children about the different ways they can enjoy potatoes has yielded a successful partnership for all parties involved.”
Fairfax County Public Schools is the 10th largest school district in the country. Under the leadership of Rodney Taylor, the district’s Food and Nutrition Services Director, the Fairfax school district serves breakfast, lunch, supper and snacks, in nearly 200 schools throughout the county. Taylor’s goal since he started in the district in 2015, has been to have a salad bar in every elementary school. The district’s initial request for more than 140 salad bars has since been significantly whittled-down, thanks in-part to United Fresh, produce industry supporters and Salad Bars to Schools partners.
“We greatly appreciate the produce industry, supporters of the national Salad Bars to Schools initiative, as well as our local partners, who all have helped to make salad bars an important part of our school nutrition program,” said Rodney. “The salad bars give us the ability to increase offerings and encourage kids to choose fresh produce every time they eat with us. And guess what? They do!”
USDA nutrition standards for school lunch require offering students a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables each week. Salad bars provide an option for schools to meet this requirement. According to United Fresh, children significantly increase their fruit and vegetable consumption when given a variety of choices in a school salad bar, and when offered multiple fruit and vegetable choices they respond by incorporating greater variety and increasing their overall consumption.