Farm to School Salad Bars

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

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 Salad Bar should be as locally and sustainably produced as possible.

As a meal service model the salad bar is flexible. It can be adapted to fit and reflect each school community’s needs and it has been shown to work well in a variety of different school settings.

** See our Glossary to understand what we mean when we use terms such as “healthy”, “local” and “sustainably produced”.


Salad Bars look different in every school. They reflect the local geography, diverse cultures, traditions and preferences of their school communities…and sometimes they may not include salad at all! The important thing to remember is that they should give students a choice to build their own bowls and create their own plates from a variety of healthy, local foods. 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, Taco, and Breakfast Bar
A classic Farm to School Salad Bar features healthy local ingredients to build hearty, vibrant salads.
A soup or stew bar features any number of soups or stews that showcase local ingredients and can include a choice of toppings for students to add to customize their meal.
Veggie wrap, sub, taco, and breakfast bars feature an assortment of healthy, local veggies, fruits,  grains and/or proteins that students can use to build their own wrap, sandwich, tacos, and breakfast plate.

New Brunswick Farm to School Guide

Small is beautiful…and attainable!

When starting a Salad Bar service, avoid proposing something large or complex to start. Instead, begin with a thoughtful plan that builds on your school’s strengths. From there, set progressive goals to help grow the initiative as you gain experience and feedback from your school community. 

For a comprehensive guide to building a Farm to School Salad Bar, check out the New Brunswick Farm to School Guide (see page 23) and the Quebec Farm to School Resources Guide


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 as culturally appropriate as possible.
  • Offer a selection of foods in alignment with Canada’s Food Guide Eat Well Plate, with at least 5 options for students to choose from to create a balanced meal or snack.
  • Ideally involve students in preparing and serving the food. At minimum, engage students in informing what will be served.
Farm to School, Farm to School Canada
Natoaganeg School Eel Ground, Nicole Matchett

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

  • Offer a variety of simple dressings, dips, sauces or other condiments 
  • Offer a variety of toppings such as dried or fresh berries, school-grown herbs or even edible flowers
  • Host theme days featuring regional and diverse cultural foods such as ‘build your own’ tacos or burritos, sushi featuring locally harvested seaweed, ramen bowls, etc. 
  • Use your Salad Bar to serve a celebratory meal or snack on holidays and other special occasions
  • Feature the salad bar during parent teacher nights and other school events to engage parents and the community
  • Teach students about reducing food waste and composting; and provide reusable salad containers or reusable plates and cutlery
  • Check out stories from previous grant recipients for even more inspiration!
Heloise Lorimer School, Alberta

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 your program becomes more established. Below are some ideas to incorporate local food outside the growing season, help students learn about where their food comes from, and enable your school community 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

Since its launch in 2016, the Farm to School Canada Digs In! Initiative has enabled more than 53,000 students in 133 schools in 9 provinces and 1 territory 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 with 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. <<