In several schools within the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD), Farm to School AmeriCorps members are introducing elementary school students to their new garden bars. The garden bars allow students to choose up to five or six different fruit or vegetable options, rather than assembling traditional salads. Garden bars are a new experience for students because most meals at MMSD elementary schools are served as pre-packaged hot and cold packs that students take off the lunch line, along with utensils and milk. Students use trays to select produce from the garden bars and, for many students, this is their first time using a tray in the lunchroom. After being handed a shiny blue tray, one student exclaimed, “I feel like I’m in high school!” Students are clearly empowered by the garden bars and the power of choice they provide.
The MMSD garden bar initiative is led by REAP Food Group, which works with MMSD on a variety of farm to school projects.This non-profit with a focus on local food is thinking big, with plans to implement garden bars featuring local produce in all MMSD schools. Garden bars and salad bars are a great avenue to get fresh, healthy and local products into the cafeteria. They also encourage students to think about their eating habits as they exercise autonomy over their meal choices.
This Farm to School Success Story was published by Wisconsin Farm to School, with funding from the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Publication editing and design by the UW-Madison Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems.