By Selma Nuñez, FoodCorps Member
There is excitement galore behind the introduction of healthy eating to children and staff alike. Successfully advocating for the introduction of a salad bar, has been one of many action plan items I initiated for the schoolwide culture of health at PS. 42. The idea is to increase the intake of fruits and vegetables for children in this area of the South Bronx. Supporting research shows that including salad bars in school lunches increases children’s consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables. When offered healthy food choices, children respond by trying new items and incorporating greater variety into their diets. Through these early, positive experiences, students are better prepared for a lifetime of healthy eating.
Despite the consistent conversation of access to wholesome foods being at the forefront of food security and food sovereignty, I believe the work in progress is encouraging actual consumption of fruits and vegetables. I have noticed in the last month that many children stop by and serve themselves salad, however, it does not always make it into their bodies as often as it goes into waste bins. It is evident that actual consumption of salad bar items newly introduced to PS.42 will need assessments in the long run and constant revisiting in order to see the work of its progress for years to come.
Nevertheless, the salad bar installation is an opportunity to engage and explore with the children even more. The salad bar is new to the school. Therefore, my strategy is to lead ongoing coaching so that the students use it and understand its importance. My hands-on classroom sessions can help children increase their understanding of food literacy. In this way the students can have an understanding the impact of your food choices on your health, the environment, and our economy. Studies show that children who are exposed to this kind of education at an early age are able to develop diet diversity and ultimately a better relationship with balanced meals throughout their lifespan. I will continue to pull into classrooms throughout the rest of the year conducting taste tests and encouraging children to give healthy foods and honest try.