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Salad Bars in Bellingham Public Schools Make a Difference

WWU students study introduction of salad bars at Bellingham middle schools and find students eating significantly more vegetables and fruits.

This past school year, between February and May, Bellingham Public Schools (BPS) established salad bars in each of its middle schools – Whatcom, Kulshan, Fairhaven, and Shuksan, as well as Sehome High, in an effort to improve students’ access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Students from Western Washington University (WWU) evaluated the impact these salad bars had on students’ diets and found that more students were regularly taking and eating fruit and vegetables.

Graduate students from WWU’s Huxley College designed and implemented a study to assess the amount of fruits and vegetables consumed by students before and after the installation of the Whatcom Middle School salad bar. WWU undergraduates from Fairhaven College implemented a similar study at Kulshan.

In both schools, photos were taken of students’ lunch trays just after they paid for lunch and then again when they were done eating, and visual estimates were made of the amount of fresh fruits and vegetables that were taken and eaten. Photographic data were gathered during three lunch periods before the salad bar was installed, and three lunches after the salad bar was in use. The Whatcom research showed a 206% increase in the consumption of fruits and vegetables following installation of the salad bar, and the Kulshan study revealed an increase of 119%.