One Parent’s Efforts to Bring Salad Bars to PG Schools

by Kate McElhenny

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and various corporate sponsors are working together to bring salad bars to school cafeterias across the country in support of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move initiative.

Several studies have shown that school children, given access to a salad bar at school, will consume more fruits and vegetables in their day and in a greater variety.

Saira Khan, a PGCPS parent (holding a PhD in nutrition), came across this broad public and private partnership and saw no reason why it could not and should not be implemented in her children’s schools, and in the Prince George’s County School District at large.

After a few weeks of discussing the matter with fellow Parkdale parents, students and teachers, Saira had inspired many of them to meet with a representative of the PGCPS Food Services Department to request sponsorship of this salad bar grant.  The application for this grant can only be submitted by the Food Services Director of a School District.

Despite over four thousand salad bars having already been donated through this program, some as near as the Montgomery County and Anne Arundel County School Districts, the initial meeting did not end with the hoped for sponsorship.  Instead, the enthusiastic group was met with questions and concerns.

There was a litany of seemingly insurmountable issues, including:

  • Cross contamination
  • Serving size
  • Cost
  • Plates
  • Staff to oversee salad bar
  • Integration into the very specific Federal School Lunch Program

Over the next six months, Saira persisted and asked for help from the Maryland Delegate of the 4th district, Joseline Pene-Melnyk, PGCPS Chief Operating Officer, Monica Goldson, PGCPS Director of Food Services, Joan Shorter, professor and acting chair in the Department of Nutrition and Food Science at The University of Maryland, Dr. Robert Jackson, and the Coordinator of Outreach for the Secretary of Agriculture, Weida Stoeker.

After months of tireless effort on Saira’s part, the PGCPS administration has finally agreed to explore the grant in order for submission. Once submitted and approved, Prince George’s County Public Schools will be put on a waiting list.  PGCPS has agreed to pilot the salad bars in select schools.

Whole Foods has generously agreed to donate the salad bars, additional funds are available to offset the cost of produce, and the University of Maryland Department of Nutrition and Food Science has offered to educate the students before the salad bars arrive to better prepare them in making healthy choices.

The website Salad Bars to Schools shows that PGCPS has not yet applied.

Want to make sure these salad bars come to your local school?

Call or write Ms. Shorter, PGCPS Director of Food Services:

Phone: (301) 952-6580, Email: jshorter@pgcps.org

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