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San Antonio One of Top Three U.S. Cities with School Salad Bars

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On Monday morning, on National Public Radio’s Fresh Air, restaurateur Alice Waters, who made her reputation focusing on fresh, locally grown and produced ingredients at her restaurant Chez Panisse in Berkeley, Calif., had this to say about the issues of fast food and childhood diet:

“The place to go is school lunch — we need to go back to school. I am hoping that we can bring all children back to a positive relationship with food.”
Childhood obesity is a widespread problem in the United States. First lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign focuses on physical activity and healthier eating habits, while the nation’s city leaders and health professionals are working on addressing the diets and food attitudes of school-age children.

Caroline Roffidal-Blanco is a registered, licensed dietitian with the City of San Antonio Metropolitan Health District. Is San Antonio moving in the right direction? She thinks so. Click here for more information on San Antonio’s Find Your Balance initiative.

By Caroline Roffidal-Blanco

Along with thousands of San Antonio students, salad bars are going “back to school” this week.

Through the successful efforts of the Healthy School Meals Initiative, more than 100 schools in San Antonio will be implementing salad bars this fall.  This makes San Antonio one of the top three cities, alongside New York City and Chicago, utilizing the most salad bars in schools. And it means that more than 100,000 students in Bexar County will now have access to healthy fruits and vegetables through salad bars as part of their school meals.

Nationwide, some 6,000 salad bars are scheduled to go into schools for K-12 students.

The Healthy School Meals initiative came about through the efforts of first lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign, the San Antonio Mayor’s Fitness Council, and the City of San Antonio Metropolitan Health District (Metro Health).

Research has shown that school children significantly increase their consumption of fruits and vegetables when they have a school salad bar.  At a recent Culinary Institute of America’s Healthy Flavors, Healthy Kids conference held in San Antonio, local middle and high school students participated in a Find Your Balance panel discussion, where they unanimously indicated they would prefer a salad bar as a healthy meal option at school.

In a recent report, F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America’s Future 2011,” Texas is ranked as the 12th fattest state.  Bexar County statistics are just as significant with 65 percent of adults and 30 percent of students being classified as overweight or obese.

In March of 2010, Metro Health received $15.6 million in federal stimulus funds through the Communities Putting Prevention to Work grant, also known as the Find Your Balance campaign, to focus on reducing the prevalence of obesity.

One of the major components of Find Your Balance is the Healthy School Meals Initiative, which is focused on meal choices as well as providing increased access to fruits and vegetables in schools through salad bars.

As school begins this week, the salad bars, which come from Cambro Manufacturing Company, Inc., are being put in place.  The state-of-the-art manufacturing includes built-in freezer packs that ensure proper chilling of the salad bars and facilitate convenient cleanup.

One way Americans of all ages could improve their diets is by eating more fresh, leafy greens.

Schools can also be flexible in what is served on the salad bars and how it is prepared. Some schools will be using local produce prepared fresh, some will use pre-packed salads. Others are using the salad bar as part of their reimbursable meals program and providing milk.

The Find Your Balance campaign also partnered with the Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools initiative, which has a goal of donating 6,000 salad bars to schools nationwide.  Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools supports Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative. National experts from Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools, the Alliance for Healthier Generation, and the Texas Department of Agriculture have also assisted.

San Antonio has been selected as a Let’s Move! city, so it’s no surprise that local schools are taking progressive steps in promoting healthy school meals through the use of salad bars. Through the various health initiatives of the Find Your Balance campaign, San Antonio is taking innovative strides to combat childhood obesity.


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