Apr 3, 2018

Giving Children the Opportunity to Choose

Fresh Lunch for All
Fresh Lunch for All

How one school district has empowered children to make healthy choices through salad bars

When Peggy Bodnar became the Food & Nutrition Services Supervisor at Boise School District in 2007, she was inheriting a progressive school lunch program that was already profoundly committed to improving the health and wellness of their students. Ten years prior to her arrival at the district, her predecessor had already started implementing salad bars in their elementary schools. This environment provided Ms. Bodnar the support and foundation she needed to keep pushing her district towards a better way of feeding their students.

  • District Size: ~26,000 students
  • Number of Schools in District: 47
  • F/R Percentage (free and reduced): 44%, including the rates at their 23 CEP sites
  • District ADP (average daily participation): 53%

Naturally, Ms. Bodnar wanted to bring salad bars to the secondary schools. She heard about our Salad Bar to Schools grant program and in 2016, received salad bars at all eight junior high schools in the Boise School District. Since the salad bars were already successful at their elementary schools, it was a smooth transition to implement salad bars at the junior highs. The cafeteria staff was familiar with the procurement process, fresh produce preparation and operation needed. The salad bars even lightened the staff’s workload. They had previously portioned out cups of fruit and vegetables prior to service. Once the salad bars arrived, they were able to prep the food in bulk. It also eliminated a significant portion of waste that was created by the pre-portioned cups.

Implementing the salad bar has been a great way for the district to meet the USDA food color variety standards. Each day, students have the opportunity to choose from eight items available at the salad bar; fresh fruit, two varieties of lettuce mix, and an assortment of toppings, such as legumes, tomatoes, carrots, zucchini slices, and more.

Ms. Bodnar says she draws inspiration from the philosophy of food guru and Registered Dietitian Ellyn Satter. Satter stresses the division of responsibility when it comes to feeding children. Adults are responsible for providing options, and children are given the responsibility and freedom to choose from what has been provided. Ms. Bodnar explains, “It’s really about providing kids with healthy choices and letting them choose. They surprise you when there’s healthy foods available.” She noted that the district has found great success in the practice of students self-serving. Rather than dictating what their food and vegetable choices are, the students are empowered to make their own choices and are in turn more excited about what is on their plate.

Over the course of the program, Ms. Bodnar was impressed by the engagement surrounding Salad Bar to Schools. She found that the support from everyone involved made the grant easy, enjoyable, and a great learning experience. Representatives from some of the district’s salad bar funders, including the Idaho Potato Commission and Tour de Fresh, even came out to visit the schools. Ms. Bodnar explains how refreshing it has been to receive this level of support throughout the grant process, “School lunch programs get bad raps. But they’ve come so far in the past five to ten years. Through programs like Salad Bars to Schools it’s like someone is saying to you, ‘We know you have a challenge, let us help,’ rather than being critical to what you are doing.”

Fresh Lunch for All
Fresh Lunch for All
Salad Bar
Salad Bar
Jan 3, 2018

2017 Impact Report

30 Million Kids Eat School Lunch Everyday
30 Million Kids Eat School Lunch Everyday

30 Million kids eat school lunch every day. They aspire to be astronauts, professional baseball players, writers, singers, and teachers. They need healthy food in order to succeed and reach their potential. 2017 was a successful year for feeding our future. We are grateful to everyone who supported us, it has allowed us to continue helping schools across the country serve healthier food to our kids so they can develop good eating habits to address the issues of childhood obesity and health relate diseases.  

The Chef Ann Foundation had several accomplishments that are detailed in the attached 2017 Impact Report. Highlights include:

  • Reaching nearly 190,000 children with Chef Ann Foundation programs
  • 33% increase in The Lunch Box users
  • Over 20,000 downloads of resources and tools on The Lunch Box
  • Launched School Food Institute and registered over 400 students
  • Added 7 new school districts to the School Food Support Initiative program, which will benefit just under 19,000 students, 59% of whom qualify for free and reduced price lunch
  • Granted 321 salad bars to schools, bringing the year to date total to over 5,000


Nov 6, 2017

Farm to School Recipes for 30 Million Kids

The Chef Ann Foundtion is happy to report that we have launched 65 Farm to School recipes on our free, online portal, www.thelunchbox.org, for schools across the country to help increase the procurement of local agriculture. Schools have the abilty to greatly impact the industry. 

Our Farm to School resources focus on helping schools bridge the gap between their desire to implement farm to school practices and their ability to integrate them into day-to-day operations.  Our new Farm to School recipes are all credited to the USDA meal pattern, have price per serving and per recipe, and can be scaled to any number of servings.  These features make the Chef Ann Foundation recipes some of the best available.

We promote and market our tools and new resources to schools, pre-K providers, and school food advocates through a variety of digital marketing outlets in order to make a shift in the procurement of local agricultre by schools. 

Farm to School Partner Kit

We make it simple and easy for partners to spread the word about the new resources.  It contains a list of all the new recipes, sample social media posts and accompanying graphics.  We updated our lists of partners to send it to and have it scheduled for release in October, during Farm to School month.

Farm to School News Alert

This communication goes out to all our registered users on the Lunch Box.  It highlights recipes for the pre-K through 12 grade levels, celebrates Farm to School month, and highlights the benefits of utilizing local products in schools.  The News Alert will create a sense of urgency that drives people to see how easy it is to incorporate Farm to School into their menus by using the new resources. 

Guest Articles

Chef Ann Foundation was pleased to provide a guest article for the Farm to School Network news page. The blog was published on August 2nd and has received over 2,000 views! 

Sharing Resources

We continue to grow our database of experiential lunchroom education ideas from schools across the country.   The database acts as a resource of ideas of how to connect local foods to the classroom and cafeteria.  

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