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All Cincinnati Public Schools Now Have Salad Bars

A salad bar in every school. That’s a tall order when you are responsible for 53 schools and none of them have salad bars. But, inspired by Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools (LMSB2S), Cincinnati Public Schools Food Service Director, Jessica Shelly, took on the challenge and secured funding from six different organizations to purchase salad bars for all 53 Cincinnati Schools. Starting this fall, all 34,000 Cincinnati Public School students will have access to a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables every day at their school’s salad bar.

Jessica loves to tell about how salad bars have benefitted her students: “Students who have never been tempted to try a cherry tomato or a slice of cucumber are now eating them because they see their friends making salads and want to try it. Once they've tried it and liked it, they come to the salad bar almost every day. Students are also telling us what vegetables they want to have in their salad bar. We know if we offer it, they will eat it!”

 “We have also found that many of our children feel like their salad bar is a special privilege -- they feel respected and trusted,” says Jessica.  One student made the comment that "now he was just like his friend going to that fancy school" because now he could go to the salad bar every day, too.

Students from Cincinnati Public Schools’ Academy of World Languages enjoying fresh vegetables and fruits from their salad bar. 

Adding salad bars to schools has even made a big impact on teachers’ eating habits. “Many of our teachers are stepping up and role modeling better eating habits, going to the salad bar and also bringing salads and fresh fruits from home to eat when they are with the kids. The students will often ask the teachers, "Where's your salad, Mrs. X?" adds Jessica.  This coming school year Cincinnati will pilot "Mentoring Meals Mondays" where teachers will sit and eat with the kids during lunch -- they will either eat lunch at the salad bar or bring in a healthy lunch from home with lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

As a former local food safety inspector, Jessica had initial reservations about self-serve salad bars.  But she reviewed all of the information and quickly realized that salad bars are safe for kids to use and the evidence shows that kids will eat more fruits and vegetables when they have a salad bar and can select what they want.  After reviewing her school lunch budget, Jessica found she could cover the cost of the produce, but she still needed the equipment.

Through creativity and tenacity, Jessica started applying for funding to purchase 53 salad bars. Cincinnati Public Schools received their first four salad bars from United Fresh Produce Association (a LMSB2S partner) and Chiquita in April of 2010. Over the next year, grants from Whole Foods Market (also a LMSB2S partner), Molina Healthcare, Xavier University and the American Dairy Association’s Fuel Up to Play 60 provided another 45 salad bars. Needing only four more, Jessica returned to LMSB2S and Castellini Company and United Fresh Produce Association Foundation donated the last four salad bars to Cincinnati Public Schools.

Congratulations to Jessica Shelly and Cincinnati Public Schools for meeting their goal of a salad bar in every school, thanks in part to Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools.

Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools is a comprehensive public health effort to mobilize and engage stakeholders at the local, state and national level to significantly increase the number of salad bars in schools across the country until every child has the choice of healthy fruits and vegetables every day at school.  Let's Move Salad Bars to Schools is an initiative of the Food Family Farming Foundation, National Fruit and Vegetable Alliance, United Fresh Produce Association Foundation, and Whole Foods Market. This initiative has pledged to place 6000 salad bars in schools nationwide over the next three years.  If your school would like to request a salad bar you can apply at