Salad Bars

Salad Bars + Schools = More Fruits and Vegetables for Children

Real Food For Kids applauds parents’ and schools’ efforts to grow the number of salad bars in FCPS and the many positive and well planned strategies it has taken in regards to purchasing, regulations, safety, labor models, etc. A salad bar can only be successful if it is well communicated and promoted. Here are some suggestions to include with your promotion plan to FNS and to implement once your salad bar is on place. These suggestions are based on national best practices and feedback from FCPS schools with salad bars.


Bowls: Bowls for salad bars should meet the National School Lunch Program guidelines for a meal-sized portion, as current pre-packaged salads do. Make sure your cafeteria has ordered bowls that will ensure the students who opt for the salad bar are getting enough food to qualify and which allow them to fill up on the fresh fruit, vegetables, proteins and grains the program requires.


Variety: National best practices suggest that variety improves participation and increased consumption. Think about incorporating seasonal or local produce. Find out what it would take for the harvest from your school garden to qualify to be served. Consider ways to repackage existing menu items, for example, Spicy Chicken Cutlets cut up for one of the protein options.


Signage: Marketing your salad bar should extend beyond the cafeteria. Use signs to advertise this offering throughout the school to reach students who may not currently eat in the cafeteria. Also make sure your signage in the cafeteria tells students specifically where the salad bar is located.


Lunch Menus: Listing the salad bar on the lunch menu will make more people aware of its existence and the variety of healthy foods available to them. Research also has shown that using descriptive names for healthy food choices (e.g. creamy corn) increases consumption.


Reinvent: Elementary and Middle schools might consider introducing a self-serve fruit/vegetable bar to encourage choice (which increases the likelihood that kids will eat what they select instead of throwing away an unwanted pre-defined option). Existing equipment could be repurposed or retrofitted for this use. And bulk-style self-service option would reduce the labor needed to prep individual servings.


Train Your Students: Salad bar etiquette is key to food safety and appeal. Use video training, power points, orientations or signage to raise awareness of correct practices such as:

Keep Communicating: Multi-tiered communication will help raise awareness of your new salad bar and continue to keep it in student’s minds. Some best practices suggested by other schools include:


Keep Making it Special: Raise participation with specific activities/specials. One activity suggested by “The Lunch Box” is Rainbow Days, in which kids choose three food colors, not including white foods, from the salad bar and consume them to receive a prize (for elementary kids, it is a sticker).


Research: Here are some sources that have been helpful, but don’t stop researching ways to make your salad bar successful. Real Food For Kids is always here to help you. Please contact us at for suggestions or to share your ideas.



Real Food For Kids is committed to working in collaboration with our partners to increase the quantities of healthful foods in our school systems, developing and delivering programs that educate our students and their families on making healthier lifestyle choices, and ensuring access to real whole foods for all school children.






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