Jenny Maloney

Getting Children Access to Fresh Fruits and Vegetables (or, Skipping Pizza for the Salad Bar)

On most days, we focus on tools to help growers defend against disease spreading psyllids, worms that eat lettuce, nematodes that gnarl roots of carrots, and weeds that steal water and nutrients from strawberries. We wonder if it will rain; if there will be enough growing degree days, and how to get the crop to the peak of ripeness and flavor. The crop then takes a journey, ending up at your local grocery store, farmers market, restaurant, and maybe even your child’s school lunch program.

It’s this last unassuming venue that is my focus today. Each day, more than 30 million U.S. children participate in the National School Lunch Program. And in many communities, K-12 schools are the ‘largest restaurant in town.’ Many also offer breakfast, snacks, vending options and afterschool meals. And with kids spending much of their waking hours in school, the food that’s available to them is something parents may want to consider. I certainly do. And I think about how more of the healthy crops I work with, can be incorporated into these large volume foodservice programs.

According to the latest Vital Signs report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children in the U.S. are still not eating the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables. One way, in which we are addressing this head-on, is through our longstanding partnership with the United Fresh Start Foundation and their Salad Bars to Schools program.

Over the last few years, Bayer has been a leading supporter of this impactful program, helping schools in California, Idaho, Washington and other states, offer a variety of fruit and vegetable choices in their meal programs each week. By providing children with access to a salad bar at school, they can easily choose from a variety of fresh produce and find what they like best. A salad bar puts a focus on fresh fruits and veggies in the lunch line, and with our recent donations, we hope children will go home and tell their parents, sparking a conversation about the importance of eating healthy and choosing more fresh fruits and veggies at every meal.

And, while there is growing awareness of the health and educational benefits the salad bars can have on the kids, many school districts are often unable to afford the basic equipment needed to adopt this strategy. The Salad Bars to Schools program committed to helping schools implement this change and give them the opportunity to offer healthy fresh fruits and vegetables in a visually appealing way. The salad bars empower children to try new things, give them access to a variety of produce choice, and give them the opportunity to increase their daily intake of fruits and vegetables.

Jenny Maloney, Food Chain and Sustainability Manager
Jenny Maloney, Food Chain and Sustainability Manager

Jenny Maloney,
Food Chain Sustainability Manager, Bayer Crop Science

I have been lucky enough to “inaugurate” two salad bars, one in Wenatchee, Washington and another in Ramona, California. I spent the afternoon with some of the students from the school, talking to them about the importance of eating fruits and vegetables. We even brought-in an expert, such as a local produce grower, who was able to talk with the kids about how certain fruits and vegetables are grown, or interesting facts about what makes an apple crunchy, or cantaloupe sweet. We organized taste tests on various apple and melon varieties, and then the kids voted on their favorite one. It’s amazing to see the kids making the connection to how, and where, their food is grown, and then getting to try it from their school salad bar. For me, the best part was watching the students go through the lunch line and piling-on the broccoli and carrots. Some even passed on the pizza.

Ultimately, while we still have that laser-like focus on delivering products that help keep those pesky pests at bay, I am proud to be a part of company that’s also focused on supporting efforts to get kids access to delicious and nutritious fruits and vegetables in schools throughout the United States.

About the United Fresh Start Foundation

The United Fresh Start Foundation is a 501 (c)(3) not-for-profit organization focused exclusively on increasing children’s access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Affiliated with the United Fresh Produce Association, the Foundation is committed to helping today’s kids achieve the public health goal to make half their plate fruits and vegetables in order to live longer and healthier lives. The Foundation works to create an environment in which kids have easy access to high-quality, great-tasting and affordable fresh fruits and vegetables, whenever and wherever they are choosing snacks or a meal. The United Fresh Start Foundation is a founding partner of the national Salad Bars to Schools initiative. More information at: www.unitedfreshstart.org.

About Salad Bars to Schools

Salad Bars to Schools is a public health campaign to increase salad bars in schools across the country so that every child has the choice of healthy fruits and vegetables every day at school. Salad Bars to Schools was first established to support former First Lady Michelle Obama's “Let's Move!” initiative to end childhood obesity in a generation. For more information: www.saladbars2schools.org

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Thriving for Change - Championing Agriculture for a New Generation