Colorful salad bars were a fixture of NYC’s public schools for years but the pandemic forced cafeterias to close them. This spring, the Office of Food and Nutrition Services (OFNS) gave the green light (see what we did there?) to the re-introduction of this vibrant and healthy school food option, and Wellness in the Schools was called upon to re-introduce a Salad Bar CookCamp training to their cooks. Just in time for National Salad Month!!!
At our Salad Bar CookCamp, we provided day-long salad bar workshops, a version of WITS’ CookCamp training, to give OFNS kitchen staff the support they need to reintroduce salad bars. We worked together to make salad dressings and composed salads, and explore and practice the various ways to cut and set up vegetables for a salad bar that is as pleasing to the eyes as the palate. The training itself is a three-part process. In addition to training OFNS cooks, we also provide on-site workshops for school aides, the women and men who are charged with overseeing the lunch period and who are critical to the success of any cafeteria programming. Finally, we are re-introducing our Salad Bar etiquette classes, to remind children of the protocols around salad bar use. The three-part process is complete with colorful signs for each salad bar, explaining the benefits of the vegetables.
OFNS head cook Aida Perdomo said, “The principals are very happy that we are back with the salad bar and the kids are too!” Aida works at the New Settlement campus in the Bronx, which houses three schools and nourishes scholars in pre-k through high school. Perdomo is grateful for the support of WITS Chef Kent and the addition of new salad bar signs, as well as the New Settlement kitchen staff who have been inspired by the opportunity to offer fresh salads again to nutrient needy growing bodies. The return of salad bars will also be a bonus for NYC’s new plant-powered Friday menu.
Enthusiasm for the return of this bounty of fresh produce is widespread. At a recent training of school aides, Brooklyn’s District 13 Superintendent Kamar Samuels and Emily Paige, Principal of The Urban Assembly Unison School in Clinton Hill, took time to listen in and express their appreciation for WITS involvement. Principal Paige was vocal regarding the power of adults engaging kids in conversation about healthy eating and the role this salad bar will play in those efforts. “The salad bar is an addition to the hot lunch that is appetizing, beautiful, colorful, and fresh,” Principal Paige said. “We want to build up a pro-culture around our school food.”
The adults aren’t the only ones creating excitement around this new option for lunch; the kids are getting involved, too! At PS151 in Brooklyn, a group of 5th graders on the “Green Team” have taken on the responsibility of encouraging their classmates to eat at the salad bar, and help with tastings.
Spring is officially here and flowers and trees are bursting with color, brightening our environment. But the season’s renewal isn’t just outside. Thanks to a forward-thinking Office of Food and Nutrition Services and a community of wellness change-makers, cafeterias all over New York City are seeing that same colorful transformation.