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Farm to School Salad Bars

Huband Park Elementary SchoolPhoto: Huband Park Elementary School, Courtenay, BC


WHAT IS A FARM TO SCHOOL SALAD BAR?
A Farm to School Salad Bar is a type of school food service that enables students to serve themselves from a selection of healthy foods, including a variety of vegetables and fruit, and at least one grain and one protein option. Foods served in the Farm to School Salad Bar should be as locally and sustainably sourced as possible. 

Helpful terms:

Healthy: Foods that are as fresh as possible, minimally processed and packaged, and low in simple sugars, salt and fats.

Local: Food produced as close to the school as possible or food produced within your province.

Sustainable: Foods produced using practices that support a community’s environmental, economic, social, and cultural wellbeing.

EVERY SALAD BAR IS UNIQUE!

Farm to School Salad Bars look different in every school. They reflect the local geography, diverse cultures, traditions and preferences of their school communities. Below are a few examples of how schools get creative with their salad bar:

Classic Farm to School Salad Bar
Soup and Salad Bar
Veggie Wrap, Sub or Taco Bar
Featuring healthy local ingredients to build hearty, vibrant salads.
Featuring healthy, local produce PLUS a warm soup or stew with choice of toppings for students to customize their meal.
Featuring an assortment of healthy, local veggies that students can use to build their own wrap, sandwich or tacos.
GETTING STARTED

New Brunswick Farm to School Guide

Small is beautiful…and attainable! When starting a Farm to School Salad Bar service, avoid proposing something large or complex to start. Instead, begin with a well-thought-out plan that builds on your school’s strengths. From there, set progressive goals to help grow the initiative as experience is gained and feedback is gathered from the school community. 

For a comprehensive guide to building a Farm to School Salad Bar, check out this guide (see page 23 for Salad Bar 101)

BEST PRACTICES

Canada's Food GuideFarm to School Salad Bars should:

  • Be accessible to all students who wish to participate, regardless of means.
  • Be self-serve, to provide students with variety and choice in their food selection.
  • Offer foods that are as locally and sustainably sourced, nutritious, and culturally appropriate as possible.
  • Offer a selection of foods from Canada’s Food Guide Eat Well Plate including at least: 3 vegetables and fruit, 1 protein food and 1 whole grain option. 
    • Salad bar offerings should be plentiful and balanced enough to provide a full meal. The salad bar can also be integrated as part of a more comprehensive lunch service, where available. 
  • Ideally, involve students in preparing and serving the food offered. At minimum, they should be engaged in informing what will be served in their school’s salad bar.
LOOKING FOR INSPIRATION?
Farm to School, Farm to School Canada
Natoaganeg School Eel Ground, Nicole Matchett

With an emphasis on variety and choice, Farm to School Salad Bars provide flexibility and room to be creative. The possibilities are endless. Here are just a few ideas to create excitement and fuel student curiosity:

  • Offer a variety of simple dressings and toppings such as dried or fresh berries, school-grown herbs or even edible flowers to make salads pleasing to the palate and eye 
  • Host salad bar theme days featuring regional and diverse cultural foods such as ‘build your own’ tacos or burritos, sushi featuring locally harvested seaweed, veggie ramen, etc. Let imagination and the local school community be your guides!
  • Make salad bar part of school celebrations, such as “Everything Green” on St. Patrick’s Day 
  • Feature the salad bar during parent teacher nights and other school events to engage parents and the community by allowing them to share a meal and experience the joy of the salad bar 
  • Integrate sustainability by striving to reduce waste: teach students about reducing food waste and composting; provide reusable salad containers that students can bring to the salad bar each week (or provide reusable plates and cutlery if possible)
  • Check out stories from previous grant recipients for even more inspiration!
MAXIMIZE ACCESS TO LOCAL FOOD YEAR-ROUND
Heloise Lorimer School

Access to local food throughout the school year can be a challenge in most regions in Canada. The important thing is to set local food procurement targets and increase them year after year as the salad bar gets established. Below are some ideas to not only incorporate local food outside the growing season, but to create opportunities for students to learn about where their food comes, and how to preserve the growing season:

  • Preserve local food in the warmer months for use in the winter. For example, pickle vegetables, dehydrate berries and beans, or freeze vegetables and fruit 
  • Grow salad greens and herbs indoors 
  • Partner with local farmers who have the capacity to store winter-hardy cops (ex. carrots, onions, beets, potatoes, squash, and others)
  • Make simple, tasty home-made dressings sweetened with local honey or maple syrup, and flavoured with dried local herbs
  • Purchase from year-round farmers markets that offer a variety of cold-hardy produce crops, as well as preserved, frozen or dried foods for sale
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT FOOD SAFETY:

Contact your local Public Health or Food Inspector / Environmental Health Officer to ensure you are following your province’s regulations and have appropriate permits. Here are some basic requirements applicable in most provinces:

  • At least one supervising staff member or volunteer should have Level 1 food safety certification
  • Make sure that cold food is properly chilled and hot food (ex. soup) is kept hot; if not, it must be thrown out after 2 hours
  • Purchase a salad bar unit with a sneeze guard to protect against contamination (this may be a requirement, depending on local regulations)
  • Teach students about the importance of food safety and supervise them during the salad bar service to reduce the risk of cross-contamination

To learn more about food safety in Canada visit the Canadian Public Health Association.

*Note: approval by local food inspection authorities to operate the salad bar is a condition of all Farm to School Canada Salad Bar Grants.

WHAT SCHOOLS ARE SAYING ABOUT THEIR FARM TO SCHOOL SALAD BAR

Since its launch in 2016, the Farm to School Canada Digs In! Initiative has enabled more than 55, 000 students in 86 schools in 5 provinces an opportunity to grow, prepare and eat healthy, local, sustainable foods at a school salad bar. Here’s a taste of what recent salad bar grantees have shared:

  • “Students are provided healthy, fresh, local food on a regular basis. This has become something students are excited about and look forward to. Healthy food is becoming part of our school culture.”

  • “Students are excited about the free salad bar and load up their plates, they are often heard speaking positively about it in the morning in anticipation… and there are line-ups!”

  • “Students are involved with planting, harvesting and preparing many of the vegetables used in our salad bar. It has been a powerful experience for them to be involved with all these aspects of food production.”

  • “Students try NEW foods that they would not have tried a year ago. As they get more comfortable with choosing healthy foods they get more experimental with their out of comfort food experiences.”

  • “Les élèves ont très hâte au lancement du bar à salade.”

  • “Beaucoup de jeunes adorent ce service.”

  • “Des gens de la communauté s’engagent à faire équipe avec nous, ce qui est toujours positif. “