The lunch room at Daley Academy is usually a sea of students’ hunter green uniforms, but a different shade of green is popping up these days – salad green! When Daley received their HealthierUS Schools Challenge award, the Wellness Committee (which includes Urban Initiatives staff from the Healthy Places project) worked with the lunch room staff to bring a salad bar into the cafeteria, so students could practice making healthy food choices for themselves!
Middle school students at Daley can choose whether they want the regular lunch entrée or take a trip to the salad bar and pile their trays high with romaine lettuce, veggies and toppings like diced meat or cheese.
Vivian, a 5th grader, compares her lunch to her friend Citali’s, “We can make our salad the way we like it. See? Mine has a lot more tomatoes.” Citali makes a face, “I don’t like tomatoes, but I like to dip these ‘trees’ in ranch dressing!” She holds up a half-eaten broccoli floret. “I never ate broccoli very much before this, but now I can get some every day.” Another benefit of student choice at lunch is that students can try new foods and develop their tastes.
Rather than all 800 students at Daley eating the same tray of food every day, the salad bar allows kids the power of choice (which is often uncommon in their daily lives), and the opportunity to deliberately practice eating a healthy diet. One boy, Emmanuel, says that today he is eating the sloppy joe, which he knows is not as healthy as a trip to the salad bar. “I had a salad yesterday. I like being able to switch it up,” he says. Another 5th grader named Joshua, who graduated from Urban Initiatives’ Work To Play Program, points out that his salad is part of his daily “5 servings of fruits and vegetables.” He then goes on to explain the 5-4-3-2-1 Go! plan for a healthy life that he learned on the soccer team!
Daley’s Wellness Committee is also planning some artistic additions to the cafeteria! Supported by the Healthy Places project, students in the art club will be designing a series of murals to decorate the walls and inspire students to really think about healthy eating. Stay tuned!