Students at Pecos Elementary line up at the school’s new salad bar for a nourishing lunch, Thursday. (Mark Wilson Photo)
Pecos Elementary students are welcoming some colorful choices in their school lunch menu thanks to a new salad bar introduced last week. Pecos is the first elementary school to provide a salad bar in the Roswell Independent School District.
The school, home to approximately 400 students, introduced the salad bar to its fifth-grade students this past Wednesday before including third- and fourth-grade students Monday. Dr. Barbara Ryan, principal at Pecos, said Thursday that if all goes well, the salad bar will be available to grades 1-5 as early as next week.
“It gives them healthier choices,” Ryan said. “This way, they can choose the healthy foods they want to eat. When you just serve a tray, it’s either they like it or they don’t like it. And it’s a lot of waste that way.”
Thursday’s salad bar options included tossed salad with spinach and romaine lettuce, grape tomatoes, cantaloupe, strawberries and carrots.
Ryan said her school agreed to pilot the program after visiting elementary schools in Carlsbad that have successfully implemented salad bars. Prior to the salad bar’s introduction at Pecos, Ryan said, staff asked its students what fruits and vegetables they like and used their input to help determine the menu.
“It was very interesting how many mentioned kiwi and different things we wouldn’t have thought of to put on there,” Ryan said.
Shelley Montgomery, RISD kitchen manager, said offering foods that students might be unfamiliar with can lead to healthier diets if the child discovers he likes the new food.
“They’re trying cherry tomatoes, bell peppers — they’re trying a lot of stuff they’ve never tried before,” Montgomery said. “So I think it will be really good. It teaches them about protein, about vegetables, about fruit. We’re trying to encourage that so they’ll have more choices (in their diet), and to help with some of these overweight issues.”
Lyman Graham, RISD food service director, said a salad bar gives a school a way to meet its meal pattern “without forcing the food on a child’s plate.”
Graham said that while early returns are good, the costs of having a salad bar are high. He explained the salad bar itself costs $6,000 or more, not including the fruits and vegetables provided to a school with more than 400 children.
“With fresh stuff, you’ll have more waste because you only have a certain shelf life,” he said. “So there’s a lot of things to look at.
“For the children, if they eat it, it’s good. But if it’s just a waste and in the trash can, then we don’t want to do it.”
Montgomery said RISD has already ordered another salad bar and is trying to figure out which elementary school it will go to. She said part of the challenge is that RISD’s 11 elementary schools don’t have their own kitchens and some only have a small room for a refrigerator and freezer to keep the food cold once it arrives from a central kitchen. Montgomery said she expects the next salad bar will be introduced within the calander year.