While no tomatoes were tossed in anger, a group of grade school students in Detroit prevailed after protesting unequal salad bar access.
School nutrition officials at the K-8 Bates Academy in Detroit told United Fresh Produce Association’s Andrew Marshall, director of foundation programs and partnership, the school acquired a new salad bar for its older middle school students earlier in the year.
When younger students at the school saw the salad bar was only for the middle school (6th-8th graders) students, third- through fifth-graders demanded access.
The students organized a silent protest, tying in with a social studies class project to teach students the importance of peaceful resistance. Some students held signs and others write letters to school leaders, stating it was “unfair” that younger students couldn’t use the salad bar.
“Salad keeps people healthy and strong,” one student wrote. “Don’t you want us to grow strong and healthy?” another girl asked.
In the end, the protest worked. Marshall said school officials gave younger children access to the salad bar on April 7.
“They were taking their fruits and vegetables and they were happy about it because it was something (the students) wanted,” Marshall said April 24.
Marshall said Betti Wiggins and Carl Williams from the Office of Nutrition Services for Detroit public schools, along with Geraldine Giles, foodservice specialist at Bates Academy, responded to the pleas of younger students and granted them a daily turn at the salad bar.
So far, Marshall said that Detroit has received 11 salad bars from the national Salad Bars to Schools initiative.
Donors of the salad bars have been:
- Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan;
- Potatoes USA, 3 salad bars;
- Michigan Potato Industry Committee, 3;
- The Whole Kids Foundation, 2; and
- Tour de Fresh (2015-16): 2.
Detroit Public Schools will also receive an additional salad bar from the 2017 Tour de Fresh, Marshall said.
He praised Wiggins for her important role in helping move Detroit schools toward greater use of salad bars in recent years.
In some elementary schools across the U.S., Marshall said school nutrition officials strategically first give salad bar access to older students so the younger children see it and want to be like the older students.
Lorelei DiSogra, vice president of nutrition and health for United Fresh Produce Association, said there have been scattered protests for salad bar access over the past six or seven years, but never to the level organized by students at the Bates Academy.
DiSogra said more than 5,000 salad bars have been given to schools by the Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools initiative, helping more than 3 million students eat better.
Marshall said salad bars at schools can also spur changes for home eating habits.
“If we can get a kid who sits down at a table with (his) parents and say ‘Where (are) my vegetables?,’ that is what we are trying to get at here,” Marshall said. “When it comes from the kids, that is when you know it is going to work.”