(UPDATED COVERAGE May 31) Salad bars have been removed from six Monterey, Calif., schools after lunchroom workers with the Classified School Employee Association union complained that maintaining them required efforts beyond their contract obligations.
The Monterey Peninsula Unified School District schools received the donated equipment as part of the Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools initiative backed by the United Fresh Produce Association Foundation. The program has provided 19 salad bars for the district. Many were recently delivered and as yet unimplemented.
“This is the first time we’ve heard of this issue anywhere out of all the 2,500 salad bars that have gone across the country,” said Andrew Marshall, policy and grassroots manager for the United Fresh Produce Association. “The school district was taken aback as well. They were not expecting anyone to say anything against this.”
District officials plan talks with the union aimed at returning salad bars to the six affected elementary schools — Foothill, Monte Vista, Crumpton, King, Del Rey Woods and Olson — by the fall.
Dole Food Co. donated salad bars to Foothill and four other district schools last September.
“Obviously we’re alarmed,” said Lorelei DiSogra, vice president of nutrition and health at United Fresh. “But luckily it’s the end of the school year and they’ve got time to talk this through and figure it out before school starts again in August.”
“Our bargaining unit is not opposed to having salad bars in school districts," said Judy Durand, executive director of human resources at the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District. "This is an issue about implementation and impact on working conditions for employees. We’re having ongoing discussions and I have every reason to believe that this will be fully resolved and the salad bars will be back into the schools prior to the beginning of the next school year.”
“It’s such a disservice to the students,” Margaret D’Arrigo-Martin, vice president of community development at Taylor Farms, said of the removal. “The industry has worked very hard to fund these salad bars for the schools. I think the children deserve access to fresh fruits and vegetables, especially in this county where they’re grown.”
D’Arrigo-Martin has led Grower-Shipper Association Foundation efforts to offer trainings to area schools on starting and strengthening salad bar programs.
“There’s labor involved in maintaining one, but there’s a way to do it cost effectively if there’s buy-in from the top down,” she said. “Everybody’s got to work together on it. I think we can help them be successful in relaunching their program.”
D’Arrigo-Martin planned to meet with the district’s superintendent. “It’s not our role to go up against the labor union, but we want to provide support,” she said.
Jennifer Gerard, the district’s director of nutrition services, is a longtime supporter of Let’s Move who’s conducted trainings for schools statewide. She could not immediately be reached for comment. In May the district had a representative at United Fresh 2013 in San Diego as the trade group celebrated 436 salad bar donations to California schools. The union raised objections in Monterey the week before.
“Leave it to a district in the middle of an area that grows fruits and vegetables for this to happen,” Marshall said. “Kids and parents are saying, ‘We want our salad bars back.’ We’re cautiously optimistic that next (school) year everything will be back up and running.”