S.F.’s schools reach their salad days

Marina Middle School seventh-grader Patrick Huang said he likes eating the vegetables that come with his school lunch now that they’re not cooked.

“The other ones, I don’t really like them, they’re watery,” the 11-year-old said while munching on broccoli florets drizzled with French dressing.

Marina was one of three schools in the San Francisco Unified School District given a salad bar last year as part of a pilot project. Balboa High School and Miraloma Elementary were also provided with salad carts to hold mixed greens and assorted crunchy vegetables.

The program will be expanded this year to another 25 schools, mostly middle schools and high schools — funded by a $500,000 grant from the Mayor’s Office and The City’s Department of Children, Youth and Their Families. Half of the funding is one-time support for the equipment and infrastructure; the other half is an annual contribution to pay for the vegetables.

“Better nutrition has been linked with higher academic achievement, so a salad bar sets our students up for performing better in school,” Mayor Gavin Newsom said.

The salad bar will come with the schools’ daily hot lunch choice at no extra cost. Low-income students get the meal for free due to state and federal subsidies. Other students pay $2.

So far, the vegetable choices have been mostly limited to the standards: broccoli, carrots and cauliflower, according to the principals at the pilot schools — but SFUSD parent Dana Woldow, chair of the district’s Student Nutrition and Physical Activity Committee, promises the salad bars will include “different vegetables as they come into season.”

Erica Martinez, a seventh-grader at Marina, said the salad bar option is “better than the junk food, like the pizza [at the school].” The 12-year-old said many of her peers also choose the salad to prevent weight gain.

The raw veggies are the latest effort to improve the nutritional offerings at The City’s public schools. In 2003, the Board of Education banned soda and junk food from all district cafeterias and vending machines. The district has also developed nutritional standards that are stricter than the federal government’s, according to Woldow.

Principals at all three schools — each serving different age levels — said the salad bars have been popular.

“The kids asked for it,” said Patricia Gray, principal at Balboa High School, which has seen participation in the lunch meal program increase 26 percent since the salad bar was added.

Healthier lunches

Some of the SFUSD secondary schools that will open salad bars this fall:

» Excelsior Middle School/June Jordan School for Equity (shared campus)

» Francisco Middle School

» Horace Mann Middle School

» International Studies Academy High School

» James Lick Middle School

» John O’Connell High School

» Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School

» Newcomer High School

» School of the Arts/Academy of Arts and Sciences high schools (shared campus)

» Thurgood Marshall High School

» Visitacion Valley Middle School

» Wallenberg High School

beslinger@examiner.com

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