The U.S. potato industry, inspired by the United Fresh Start Foundation’s program, Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools, challenged members of the United States Potato Board to donate salad bars to 300 schools annually as part of the program.
The Board leadership approved using assessment funds to match every salad bar donated by the potato industry starting in July, 2015. Through February 2016, the potato industry has donated 84 salad bars which have been matched by the Board. Together with additional bars donated by the Board, a total of 180 salad bars have been placed in schools. The potato industry has now donated more salad bars to the program than any other sector of the produce industry. According to Richardson, “Salad bars donated by the potato industry have been placed in school districts in sixteen different states. The Board is excited about the involvement of the potato industry in this program as state commissions, individual farms, and industry members have stepped up and become contributors.” To facilitate the program, the Board is working closely with the United Fresh Start Foundation, which is coordinating outreach to schools, tracking donations and ordering salad bars, and facilitating connections between school foodservice leaders and potato industry donors.
“We are very appreciative of the potato industry for their significant contributions to support salad bars for schools,” say Tom Stenzel, president and CEO, United Fresh. “Working together, we can ensure children have access to a wide variety of vegetables in school meals. Salad bars are an excellent way to give kids choices and highlight new and innovative options that speak to a generation of students who want more fresh and healthy options. “Today’s students recognize good food quality when they see it and crave food that is on-trend and customizable,” says Richardson. “They want choice—whether at home, dining out or at school. Potatoes are the perfect healthy canvas for everything from global flavor inspired salads and sides to simple herb-oven-roasted spuds, providing the choice today’s students demand.”
To capture the palates of today’s students, the Board has also partnered with Chef Garrett Berdan, a registered dietitian and child nutrition specialist, to develop over a dozen new school-friendly, potato-centric recipes. The recipes range from Potato Wedge Nachos to Smokey Chipotle Potato Salad to Thai Potato Veggie Curry, for variety that appeals to students, meets the USDA guidelines and fits within the diverse school foodservice operations. The recipes are featured in leading school foodservice and nutrition publications, School Nutrition Association conferences and at various industry events through the Board’s Potatoes Raise the Bar program. The Potatoes Raise the Bar program works to increase overall vegetable consumption in schools by integrating potatoes into salads and other vegetable items being served at schools. Students consistently choose items with potatoes and are more willing to try something new if their favorite vegetable is included. By raising the bar on all vegetable consumption in schools, the Board seeks to establish life-long healthy eating habits.