Michelle Obama gets high marks with her push to add more salad bars to the nation’s schools, Chicago sixth-grader Amanda Robles said.

Robles attends Bernard Moos Elementary School, recipient of one of 10 salad bars through Obama’s “Let’s Move” anti-obesity campaign — which aims to add 6,000 salad bars to schools over the next three years.

The school was chosen to mark the first anniversary of the campaign Feb. 9, where Fernando Aguirre of Chiquita Brands International and Lorelei DiSogra of the United Fresh Produce Association said the salad bars were crucial in teaching children better nutrition.

Chiquita and United Fresh funded the 10 salad bars in Chicago’s schools, 72 of which have them now; another 38 should be in place by the end of the year.

“This is a benefit to the kids and a benefit to our industry,” said Aguirre, chief executive officer for Cincinnati-based Chiquita.
Turning kids on to fruits and vegetables may also make them future customers, he added.

“It becomes a habit for them, and eventually it’s going to be something that’s going to be important for us, because they become consumers of the company,” Aguirre said after a Feb. 9 news conference. “So to us, it’s not only the right thing to do, but it’s also good business, frankly.”

In a Feb. 9 speech in Alpharetta, Ga., Obama lauded progress on the Let’s Move! campaign, saying one of her goals is to provide parents with “actionable information they can use to make healthy choices.”

“Over the last year we have fundamentally changed the conversation about how we eat, how we move, and how we grow and get our food,” Obama said, according to a news release.

Still, the salad bar initiative needs more support from the fresh produce industry to succeed, said DiSogra, United Fresh vice president of nutrition and health. Each salad bar costs $3,000-$6,000.

“We really need the whole industry to help us accomplish this goal,” DiSogra said. “That is a disappointment we haven’t gotten enough people behind it.”

After the news conference, Aguirre handed out packs of apple slices during the lunch period.

Having a salad bar is a “great opportunity” for student, Robles said during lunch.

“They have a choice of healthier foods they can pick from,” she said.

But only about half the students eat regularly from the salad bar, — “Some kids are not into it — Robles said, adding that her classmates need to be more active instead of hanging out at home.

Chiquita, United Fresh give salad bars on Let’s Move birthday

Bruce Blythe

Students at Bernard Moos Elementary School in Chicago load up at a salad bar donated by Chiquita and the United Fresh Produce Association Feb. 9 to celebrate the first anniversary of first lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! anti-obesity campaign.