Hey, that’s my Honeydew melon!

Two years ago, there were few, if any, salad bars in Oakland school cafeterias. Now, there are 38 of them. And because of a $16,700 state agriculture grant, five more school cafeterias — serving kids from 10 schools — will offer fresh fruits and veggies every day.

photo of Manzanita Community School cafeteria by Laura A. Oda, Oakland Tribune

The latest round of salad bars will materialize on the Jefferson campus (Jefferson Elementary, Learning Without Limits, and Global Families); Brookfield Elementary; Melrose Leadership Academy; Webster campus (Webster & East Oakland Pride); Lockwood Campus (Lockwood, Futures, & Community United).

Oakland’s nutrition service director, Jennifer LeBarre, says the district plans to add another 15 this year, not counting those five, which will bring the total to 58.

There are so many schools in OUSD, though, that salad-eaters at 28 elementary schools, seven middle schools and 10 high schools will have to bring their greens from home for awhile longer.

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • Catherine

    Our school is getting a salad bar next month. It’s a big commitment from the parents. There is a four week trial period in which we have to prove that we do not waste food, that the children will eat from the salad bar and that there are multiple choices taken from the salad bar – not all fruit for example.

    In addition, there is a mandatory training session. We’ll see how it goes – the students and parents at our school advocated for the salad bar and are willing to support it with volunteer help during the lunch hour.

    We’ll see how it works – I know of two other schools that had salad bars and they were pulled because not enough children chose to eat from them or they wasted a lot of food that was put on trays and not eaten. We’ll see.

  • http://groups.yahoo.com/group/oaklandpublicschoolparents/ Christopher Waters

    We launched Peralta Elementary’s salad bar this week, on Monday, October 20, 2008.

    I want to publicly take my hat off to Jennifer Lebarre and salad bar coordinator Marianne Dania, for their dedication and persistence in getting these salad bars implemented at Peralta and so many other schools. They, like many who work in various ways as advocates for health and nutrition in our schools and in the lives of our children and their families, have a continual minefield of obstacles to overcome, and should receive praise for how much progress has been made at OUSD.

    That first day when I walked into the lunchroom and saw the excitement and chaos around the salad bar, I stood watching the students — with whom I have spent many lunches training them to separate the recycling and organics from their waste — and I was amazed at how many of them were enthusiastically gorging themselves on their salad greens. I had to remind some of them to chew before they swallowed. It was truly moving. We have had numerous testimonials from parents this week, who said their children came home from school raving about how much they liked the salad, despite the fact that these parents usually can’t get the kids to touch green salad with a ten-foot pole. I speculate that we are watching the power of peer surroundings and the educational environment at work — the notion that if it is being provided at the school, it must be good for us. And at least in this case, it is true. This is a really rewarding and exciting thing to witness, especially after our hard work to get the OUSD Wellness Policy adopted, and Jennifer’s often-overlooked campaign to make healthy “stone soup” with her narrow fiscal resources.

    Marianne has proven herself to be a formidable taskmaster, and is whipping our parent and student volunteers into shape. Her method is authoritative and effective, and we are very proud and happy to have the benefit of her support. It is an immense effort.

    I can’t state strongly enough what a milestone this represents for us with our integrated academic/health curriculum and our determination to empower our students and their families, and I want to thank all who have played a crucial part in it. I hope this message makes its way to some who may support this or other programs like it in the future.

    Christopher Waters
    Peralta School Wellness Committee

    Some testimonials:

    *Afternoon all:

    I know what you are thinking – parent testimonial or not I have no
    interest in helping out with the salad bar! Honestly, that is what I
    thought too. But this morning, after volunteering in my son’s class, I
    got roped into helping with the salad bar since they really needed
    volunteers. To my surprise, I had a blast. The kids were so excited
    about getting fresh fruits and veges at lunch. Seriously, they ate it
    up (and for my kid and many others that is a miracle)!

    Please consider having fun yourself at the salad bar. If you are
    already helping out in your child’s classroom in the morning (all you
    super K parents) consider staying on a little longer to volunteer at
    the salad bar too.

    Hope to see you at the salad bar, Lisa (aka Jack’s Mom)

    *Thank you, Thank you, to all the salad bar volunteers.
    Zack LOVES it and it makes packing that lunch a little easier.
    We so appreciate everyone who is helping out…and we hear the hair nets are very pretty.
    Thanks again.
    Jill (Zack- 2nd grade)

    *Thank you! My daughter went on and on about howsgreat the salad bar was.

    Thanks to all!

    *And mine, who generally won’t go near salad with a ten food pole, was so excited to try it that she took a dollar in her lunch today. I think it’s fantastic that we as a school are inspiring our kids to eat fresh, healthy food and to be excited about it!
    Thanks to all who are making this possible.
    :-) Naomi

    *HUGE thanks to Christopher, Patrice, and everyone who is making the salad
    bar possible. Alausi LOVES it and I appreciate not having to peel
    cucumbers or figure out how to pack dressing that won’t leak in her lunch!

    Also, my husband works with Sobrante Park elementary school, which is also
    trying to make community health a priority. He is recruiting a few
    parents there to come over and visit during lunchtime to see how we’re
    doing it so they can hopefully try to replicate it over there. I will let
    folks know when they plan to come so we can give them a nice welcome and
    perhaps pass on any information/tips that would be useful to them.

    Exciting to see Peralta’s vision and innovation spreading to other parts
    of the city!


    *salad bar is a total hit in our family too.

    i’m so glad we have a salad bar!


    *Yes, thank you Patrice and all volunteers. My daughter Lyla loves the salad bar, including the raisens in the lettuce. It is a wonderful healthy new addition to our school. I wish I could be there to volunteer.

    *Patrice You are awesome! And by the way….my kid LOVES cranberries in his salad!

  • Turner

    Great news! It’s always good to hear when our district is doing great things for our children. Kudos to Jennifer and her team!


  • Katy Murphy

    After reading Catherine’s comment about salad bars being pulled from two schools, I e-mailed Jennifer LeBarre, OUSD’s nutrition services director, to learn more. Here’s what LeBarre had to say:

    “We have not pulled salad bars for any reasons. If a salad bar has low participation or high waste, we work with the site to resolve them. For example, we had very low participation at one campus so we held a `Why Salad Bars Are Important’ poster contest for students. These were displayed in the cafeteria and throughout the school and participation did go up. With waste, we work with the students on our motto, “Only take what you will eat” to curb the waste.

    We have had one site close their own program because they were unable to support the salad bar. Specifically, they were unable to secure any parent volunteers or even school site staff to support it. We will be working with this site to see how we can further assist them to open this program.

    Let me also clarify the statement regarding four week trial period. We have a two week training period, no trial period. During this time we ask that all students at least walk by the salad bar so they can see the great selection. We also mandate that students only select a few items to prevent the waste and to teach them to make choices and serve themselves.”

  • Catherine

    Thanks for the info Katy.

    I know the school that the salad bar was stopped. When I talked to the teachers I was told that many of their students do not eat salad at home and fresh fruits and vegetables are not provided to the kids daily.

    Salad bars in schools with students who normally have a high fat, high calorie diet would be a good way to move the trend. In cases where there is little support by the families and teachers, and a high percentage of students on free and reduced school lunches, could we tap into Senior Centers to help with volunteers for the lunch hours? Honestly it would take about 2 hours a day tops.

  • Bryant

    Hey Katy,

    I just read some of the comments and was wondering if you know how OUSD chooses the school that gets a salad bar. Is there anyone I can email to get LIFE Academy on the list?

  • Catherine


    Joaquin Miller Elementary School is in danger of losing their Salad Bar. It seems as though many schools must have their PTA pay for the required employee to run the salad bar.

    We had to nearly double the number of lunches to qualify to keep the salad bar. Currently it requires 15 parent volunteer and 12 student volunteer hours per week to run. The district does NOT provide an employee – check out Montclair elementary school. Also, technically Jennifer is right because they don’t officially “remove” the salad bar, they suspend it – so as not to show that the salad bar was removed.

    We don’t have the option of raising the price of lunches by .25 or .50 a day to cover the cost of the salad bar, even though parents are willing to do so; we don’t have the option of bringing in someone that we want to hire from the outside, it must be approved by the district and finally, the district is not clear up front what is needed to keep the salad bar running – – other than costing the PTA approximatly $8,000 per year.

    Please help Jennifer clarify how we keep our salad bar with volunteer hours not exceeding 10 hours per week and not having the PTA put out $8,000 per year.