Salad Bars and Fruit and Vegetable Intake in Title I Elementary Schools
Objective: Despite widespread support for salad bars as a means to increase fruit and vegetable (F&V) intake within the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), empirical support for their use is limited. This cross-sectional study examined associations between salad bar access and F&V selection and consumption in Title I elementary schools in Virginia serving universal free meals. Methods: Three matched pairs of schools (3 with salad bars; 3 without [control]) were randomly selected. Digital imagery plate waste methods assessed F&V selection, waste, and consumption. N = 1559 trays (N = 760 salad bar; N = 799 control) from 1st-5th grade students were analyzed (92.5% NSLP participation; 98.6% racial/ethnic minority). Results: Salad bar usage varied widely (8.2%-63.8%). Different patterns of F&V selection and consumption were observed across pairs. Vegetable selection was higher in one salad bar school (+43.6g; q < .001) and vegetable consumption higher in 2 salad bar schools (+15.3g [q = .005]; +8.3g [q = .022]), compared with matched controls. Students in 2 salad bar schools selected more fruit than controls (+30.2g and +18g; qs < .001), yet fruit consumption differed across all 3 pairs. Conclusions: Salad bar access might facilitate children's vegetable intake. Inconsistent results across school pairs suggest that school food environment factors other than salad bar access influenced F&V consumption.
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Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: October 1, 2020
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