Parent-Led Salad Bar Highlights a Healthy First Semester at TCN
One tray of fruits and veggies at a time, salad bars are redefining the words “cafeteria lunch” in schools across Oakland. When the salad bar is rolled out during lunchtime at Think College Now, students line up quickly, eager to see what’s new.
“I like the oranges and the salad – I like everything!” says 3rd- grader Jane. “We don’t want things like [soda] because that’s bad for us. It’s good having a salad bar. If we didn’t, I would feel sad. I would have to bring my own.”
“We’ve seen a big change in students’ [eating habits],” says salad bar volunteer Maria Ceja, the parent of Araceli, a TCN 2nd- grader. “The salad bar gives them healthier options.” She and other parents – many who volunteer at the salad bar -- have watched the positive effects unfold across the lunchroom and into the classroom. “We see a big difference and so do the teachers,” says Ceja. “My daughter Araceli now has more energy and is more alert in class.”
”I feel more active when I eat fruits and veggies,” says 3rd-grader Jorge. “I go and play soccer and football outside and I have more energy. I eat like 20 carrots in one day!”
“You’re like Bugs Bunny!” his classmate Fabian tells him.
“I think it’s good to have a salad bar because it can boost people up for the afternoon,” says 3rd-grader Yetunde. “The fruit can help us be energized so we can learn more and get to college!”
“If we don’t have any fruit or vegetables,” 3rd-grader Tobi explains, “we won’t have healthy bodies.” Fellow 3rd-grader Jeff concurs. “It’s important to have a salad bar because it helps us eat healthy so we can have strong bodies and muscles.”
Parent volunteers also value the community-school environment at TCN. "Volunteering -- at the salad bar, in the office, in classrooms – makes parents feel like part of the family of the school,” says Ceja. Laura Tapia, whose son Kevin is a 5th-grader, says, “I really like to help the school and be with the kids. I just want to be involved.”
Another parent volunteer, Teresa Ramos, reflects on the importance of setting kids on the path to healthy eating at a young age – especially given the rising rate of diabetes and other conditions. “We need to offer healthy food for kids because right now there’s a major obesity problem,” she says. She is excited to see her son Cesar and his fellow kindergarteners eating consistently from the salad bar. “They need this healthy food so they can have no problems with diabetes, chronic asthma, and other health issues.”
“I’m happy to help, because it’s helping kids eat healthy foods,” says Maria Beliz, parent of kindergartener Jerlin and 2nd-grader Kevin. “I’m willing to volunteer, and hope more parents will join us, so that we can have the salad bar forever here at TCN.”