Other Resource

West Salem School District: A School Food Success Story

West Salem School District: A School Food Success StoryThe Challenge

The West Salem School District, located in rural, west-central Wisconsin, houses the elementary, middle, and high schools on one campus. The district has made considerable progress in its long-term efforts toward robust nutrition standards. Offering foods that appeal to elementary school children while still pleasing the palates of high school students is not always easy. Yet for budgetary reasons, retaining school meal participation rates across all grades is essential.

Some of the Solutions

The district has made numerous changes in recent years, including the introduction of “garden bars” featuring kale, Swiss chard, peppers, squash, raspberries, and other fruits and vegetables grown on the campus. Cafeteria staff have undergone training to teach them how to cook with a wider variety of herbs and spices, which allowed them to cut back on the use of salt. The schools only serve whole wheat breads and pastas and brown rice instead of white.

Measures of Success

To keep school meal participation rates high, the district offers healthy pre-plated meals and a la carte items to assure students have flavorful choices and a short wait time. The district has reduced wait times from five minutes to just 90 seconds—which anecdotally helps prevent high school students who are in a hurry from going off-campus for lunch. Parents also report that their children are asking for salads at home and ordering them in restaurants because they have learned to enjoy eating them at school.

Salem At A GlanceSnacks and Beverages

To meet both the federal government’s Healthier US School Challenge standards and district wellness guidelines, a la carte items now include yogurt parfaits and baked chips, as well as muffins and cookies that are sold in significantly reduced portion sizes. Administrators have eliminated sugar-sweetened beverages from vending machines and replaced them with water, flavored water, and zero- and low-calorie energy drinks. Additionally, the district serves only nonfat and low-fat dairy products.

The #1 Lesson Learned

District leaders have found that giving students opportunities to sample products, such as brussels sprouts, before they appear on the menu is instrumental in gaining student buy-in. Administrators and cafeteria staff report that students are much more receptive to eating such foods after they have been introduced to them through samples.

Read more "School Food Success Stories" from school districts across the nation.

Date added:
Dec 19, 2012

Related Resources

Pew Commends Senators Collins and Heitkamp for Supporting Healthy School Foods

Other Resource
Jessica Donze Black, an expert with The Pew Charitable Trust’s initiative on child nutrition, issued the following statement on the School Food Modernization Act. More

States Need Updated School Kitchen Equipment

Other Resource
Eighty-six percent of schools in the United States are serving healthy lunches, but many could do so more effectively with updated equipment and infrastructure. Without the right tools, districts rely on workarounds that are expensive, inefficient, and unsustainable. Investing in kitchens and cafeterias could help schools better serve the nutritious foods and beverages that students need. More

National Nutrition Month Facts

Other Resource

March is National Nutrition Month, a time to focus new energy on giving kids healthy food options throughout the school day. Students consume up to half of their daily calories in school, so access to wholesome meals and snacks is important to their overall health. In fact, research shows that students living in states with strong nutrition laws gain less weight than those in states without such policies.


Education Week: Grants to Rehab School Kitchens Included in Obama's Budget Proposal

Media Coverage
About 88 percent of 3,459 food-service directors recently surveyed by Pew Charitable Trusts and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation said they needed additional equipment to adequately prepare meals. More

Bloomberg: Researchers On Free & Reduced Lunch, The Opportunity Gap

Media Coverage
Jessica Donze Black, director of the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project, joins host Jane Stoddard Williams to discuss the National School Lunch Program that provides low-cost or free lunches to children. More

Civil Eats: State of the Tray: Will Recent Improvements in School Food be Rolled Back?

Media Coverage

Jessica Donze Black, director for the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project, calls the modification change a “pragmatic and scientifically sound decision,” and San Francisco-based school food reformer Dana Woldow agrees: “[The calorie caps] will automatically limit the amount of potentially fatty protein and grains going into the meals. I think the days of seeing giant cheeseburgers the size of your head in school cafeterias may be over.”


NEAToday: Aging School Kitchens Undermine Healthy Meal Preparation

Media Coverage

It was food delivery day at Glen Landing Middle School in Blackwood, New Jersey, and the 42-year-old walk-in freezer went kaput. Again.


The State of School Nutrition

Other Resource
Kids consume up to 50 percent of their daily calories at school, so access to healthy meals and snacks is important to their overall health. This is especially true for the 21.5 million students who qualify for free or reduced-price meals and rely on food served in school to meet their nutritional needs. More

Serving Healthier Meals: California Schools Need Updated Kitchen Equipment

Other Resource
The majority of public schools in California are serving meals that meet updated, healthier nutrition standards. To do so, half of the state’s districts are cooking more meals from scratch. Scratch cooking can be challenging for schools—particularly those in older buildings—without the right kitchen tools for efficient preparation of healthy foods. More

Serving Healthy School Meals: Kitchen Tools Matter

How do you store extra servings of fruits and vegetables so schools can serve students the healthy foods they need to learn? Two school food service experts outline the importance of school kitchen equipment so that personnel have the right tool for the right job. More

Serving Healthy School Meals: Presentation Matters

Kids eat with their eyes, just like adults. Two school food service experts explain why presentation and equipment play important roles in getting kids to eat healthy foods. More

What Does a School Kitchen Need?

Data Visualization
Schools across the country are serving healthy meals, but many could do so more effectively with updated equipment and
infrastructure. More

Serving Healthy School Meals: Kitchen Equipment

This is the second in a series of reports that summarizes how schools are putting in place updated U.S. Department of Agriculture, or USDA, meal standards and the challenges they must overcome to reach full implementation.


Serving Healthy School Meals: Kitchen Equipment

Other Resource

Schools would be better able to serve healthy, appealing meals if investments were made in new kitchen equipment and infrastructure.


Report Finds That School Kitchens Need Significant Upgrades

Press Release

Only 1 in 10 school districts nationwide (12 percent) has all the kitchen equipment needed to serve healthy foods, according to a new report issued by the Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project. The report makes recommendations for how schools, policymakers, industry, and philanthropic partners can work together to make these investments and provide healthy, appealing foods more efficiently. It is the first national assessment of districts’ kitchen equipment and infrastructure needs.