Cochran Elementary students now have a healthier option at lunch, as the school piloted a salad bar program in the Williamsport Area School District, which officially kicked off on Tuesday.
"A lot of parents and people have been talking about putting salad bars in the schools for a while," Christine Kavanagh, nutritionist for the district's TRACKS program, said.
The salad bar - which is free to those who purchase lunch and $1.90 to those who pack it - has been in the school for about three weeks and is offered only to fourth and fifth grades at this time.
Parent and volunteer Nicole Dawson, left, assists fourth- and fifth-graders with the salad bar at Cochran Elementary School Tuesday.
Principal David Michaels said he wasn't sure how the students would take to it at first, but now he's sure it's a success.
"By day two it became part of their habit," he said.
Four of the district's elementary schools - Jackson, Round Hills, Sheridan and Stevens - are eligible to receive a free salad bar because they achieved the Healthier U.S. Schools Challenge.
Cochran received its salad bar because of donations, as would be the case for other district schools. A goal of $17,500 was set by the food service department for the initiative and have raise $2,500 so far.
"It's healthy and if most kids get it, they'll be healthier," Nathaniel Eiswerth, a fifth-grade student, said.
Doug and Frani Doherty made a donation to the program. Frani said it is important for children to learn to like the taste of fruits and vegetables early in their childhood.
"We just feel it's important for people to eat fruits and vegetables," she said.
The salad bar offers the students salad, carrots, cucumbers, peppers and others, which were chosen by district chef Giles Wickham.
Wickham said he watched to see what his children eat so he had an idea what young children liked. He also added some vegetables and fruits his children didn't like so students had an opportunity to try new things.
"It'll really help the kids to get a taste for fresh, raw vegetables," he said.
Rosemary Flock, a fourth-grader, said she likes the ability to go up and get what she wants.
"I really like it because it has all different colors and flavors," she said.
Having different colors on students' plates is exactly what the district and non-profit agency, Let's Move Salad Bars to Schools, hope will occur. The district adopted the agency's slogan of "Make a Rainbow."
Kavanagh said the slogan helps to remind students to get more than one item on their plates and they should have a colorful combination of food.
Kavanagh and Krista Fagnano, department chairwoman of health services, said Michaels was a big part of getting the salad bar in the school. They said having the school's support for the program was critical to its success.
Volunteers are available to monitor the students to make sure they don't take too much or add too much dressing. As Wickham reminded students, they were "making salad, not soup."
An added bonus for the students is they are in charge of what they eat.
"It gives them the ability to select," Kavanagh said.
"It empowers them to make the right decision," Frani Doherty said.
Kavanagh said more schools in the district will be able to receive a salad bar as they receive donations. The food service department provides the food but equipment for it costs about $2,500, she said.
Use of the salad bar will be transitioned to students in lower grades in the following weeks. Kavanagh said students are excited about it.
"The kids know it's here and they're anxious," she said.