Austin, TX—Whole Foods Market is teaming up with Chef Ann Cooper to raise money for establishing salad bars in school cafeterias across the country. Cooper, known as the “Renegade Lunch Lady,” approached Whole Foods Market with the idea of raising money for the purpose of granting salad bar equipment to schools that apply. Through in-store donations solicited as customers go through check-out, and through donations to the Web site www.saladbarproject.org, the partnership has raised well over $1 million as of press time, close to their goal of $1,250,000. At an estimated $2,500 per salad bar grant, that would equal 500 salad bars for the schools that apply successfully.
The grant is a formal process channeled through Chef Ann’s non-profit F3 Foundation (Food, Family, Farming). When a school receives the grant, they are delivered a five-well salad bar complete with insert pans, as well as cutting boards and utensils. Eligible K–12 schools must be within 50 miles of a Whole Foods Market store location, and must be enrolled in the National School Lunch Program. Schools were encouraged to begin applying as of the beginning of September.
Additional educational support and guidance for making each salad bar a success is available at www.thelunchbox.org, a Chef Ann developed site which is geared toward providing schools with the resources for motivating and enabling their students to eat healthy. For instance, their Farm to School program tries to link school districts with local farms in their area. The site also includes healthy recipes and other information on cooking and nutrition.
Cooper’s overall aim is to help transition school cafeterias into a healthy, nutritious experience for an increasingly obese and unhealthy child population. A representative from the F3 foundation says of the salad bar project in particular, “One small tangible thing to do is to present students with these fresh ingredients, and give them the choice to eat them.” The foundation says it will work with officials like superintendents and principals from schools who apply, helping to ensure that the salad bars are utilized properly.
On the project Web site, there is a constantly updated tracker of the total funds raised, a leaderboard consisting of Whole Foods Market locations that have raised the most, and the simple application form for schools to apply. F3 indicates that the group will try to grow the project further, continuing to raise money, seek new fundraising partners and grant new salad bars.
Published in WholeFoods Magazine, November 2010 (ahead of print on September 23, 2010)