In the 2012-13 school year, the district spent about $1.37 million on fresh produce, up from $793,000 the previous year.
Caplon said the district needs prepackaged fruit to provide a quick-and-easy option for breakfasts. The district is looking for options like grapes in a bag, cut grapefruit, cut oranges, sliced apples in bags or a mixture of the two fruits together in a bag.
Calling salad bars the most valuable piece of equipment in school kitchens, Jessica Shelly, food services director, Cincinnati Public Schools, said they have been a core strategy to meet updated nutrition standards.
“When you offer kids a choice, if you empower them and trust them to make a decision, they will surprise you with what they take — and they love it,” she said.
With the support of produce companies and the Salad Bars to Schools campaign, 53 salad bars were provided to Cincinnati schools at no cost to the district.
She said industry donations (to put salad bars in schools) are helping to transform school lunches.
“As the message gets out there on how beneficial salad bars are to kids, and how it benefits our enterprise programs, people are listening,” she said.
Strong demand from schools is pulling along fresh produce suppliers, said Phil Muir, president and chief executive officer of Muir Copper Canyon Farms, Salt Lake City.
The funding increase for the Department of Defense Fresh Program has risen by 265% in the past 12 years, while the funding for the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program has jumped by 2,700%, he said. Muir Copper Canyon’s sales of fresh produce to schools have increased 800% since 2006, he said.